Poorer Neighborhoods May Bring Worse Health

Link persisted even after researchers adjusted for diet, lifestyle

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FRIDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Americans who live in poor neighborhoods are more likely to have health problems and to die prematurely, regardless of their dietary and lifestyle risk factors, according to a new study.

"We were expecting that once we controlled for these lifestyle and medical risk factors, the differences would go away," Dr. Chyke Doubeni, an assistant professor of family medicine and community health and assistant vice provost for diversity at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "We weren't surprised by the unadjusted differences, but we were surprised that the differences persisted after controlling for lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, exercise and medical risks."

The researchers found that a larger percentage of people living in the most socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods reported poorer general health, higher average body mass index and unhealthy diets. And as the level of poverty increased, so did the risk for early death, the study found.

The finding resulted from an examination of lifestyle, diet and medical history data collected in 1995-96 from 565,697 people participating in the U.S. National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. The participants, ages 50 to 71, came from six states and two metropolitan areas.

The study was to be presented at an American Association for Cancer Research conference on cancer prevention, held Dec. 6 to 9 in Houston.

"We, as practitioners, either in the health-care system or clinics, should be alert to the needs of people from these backgrounds," Doubeni said. "We need to target public health interventions to these neighborhoods that are deprived by improving health resources and the physical environments in those areas."

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