Obesity Epidemic Hits South L.A. Harder Than Most

Posted: March 12th, 2012

From 1980 to 2004, the percentage of young people who were obese tripled nationwide, rising to 18 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Here in Los Angeles County, officials report more than half the adult population is now overweight.

And while obesity is a problem for Americans in all walks of life, it’s worse when you don’t live near a park, when access to public transportation is limited, when sidewalks are broken and streetlights are few. . . .

In fact, a National Institutes of Health study found that just living in a socioeconomically deprived area leads to weight gain and a greater risk of dying at an early age.

As a homegrown example, people in Culver City live an average of eight years longer than people in Jefferson Park, according to Crump. Yet these two communities in the middle of Los Angeles are only a couple of miles apart. . . .

The neighborhoods of South Los Angeles suffer more than most:

• Thirty-three percent of children there are overweight.

• One in seven residents has diabetes, compared to one in 12 in West L.A.

• Forty-two percent of South L.A. residents live below the federal poverty level, compared to only 12 percent in West L.A., and the numbers correspond with the rate of diabetes in each area. . . .

But South L.A. is not alone in terms of limited park space. Nearly two-thirds of the children in Los Angeles County — mostly the children of the poor — have no park or playground near their home, according to the City Project, which promotes increased parks and recreation for underserved communities.

Read the rest of this article, the first in a series, by Eddie North-Hager at KCET SoCal Connected . . .