John Higginbotham, PhD, associate dean for research and health policy and director of the Institute for Rural Health Research at the College of Community Health Sciences, recently discussed the effects of food deserts on childhood obesity in a Crimson White article.
According to Higginbotham, children who grow up in food deserts have a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions associated with obesity and poor nutrition.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as areas where a significant percentage of the population lives more than a mile from the nearest source of fresh, healthy food. For many people living in a food desert, the only sources of food they have access to are gas stations and convenience stores.
“Right now our adolescents and our young children, 31 percent of them are either overweight or obese,” Higginbotham told The University of Alabama student newspaper. “If we look at the adults, that number jumps to 69 percent in our state. These children are going to have the same problems with obesity that adults are having but at a younger age. There have even been some people who have said this may be the first generation that doesn’t outlive their parents if it continues to go in this direction.”
UA was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities that is funding Project UNITED, which works to reduce childhood obesity in Alabama’s Black Belt region. Through Project UNITED, a collaborative effort of the UA Colleges of Community Health Sciences and Communication and Information Sciences, Higginbotham and other UA researchers involved in the project are working to create lasting solutions to food deserts and obesity by customizing solutions that fit each individual community.
Read the full Crimson White article here.