Study: Neighborhood Income Level Could Determine Health Risks

A new study finds low-income women are less likely to be extremely obese and have diabetes if they move to a more affluent area.

A new study concludes low-income women who moved into less impoverished areas are less likely to be extremely obese or have diabetes, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Wednesday.

The full study was to be released on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, but HUD provided a preview of its findings in a press release. The study offered vouchers to low-income women to move out of their neighborhood into a more affluent one, while monitoring peers from their former area.

Women who took the voucher were 3.4 percent less likely to be extremely obese than those who remained in low-income neighborhoods. Those women had a prevalence rate of 18 percent for extreme obesity, well above the 7 percent national average.

Voucher recipients were also 5.4 percent less likely to have diabetes than their counterparts. Women in low-income areas had a prevalence rate of 20 percent for diabetes, significantly higher than the 12 percent average nationwide.

"This study proves that concentrated poverty is not only bad policy, it's bad for your health," HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement. "Far too often, we can predict a family's overall health, even their life expectancy, by knowing their zip code. But it's not enough to simply move families into different neighborhoods. We must continue to look for innovative and strategic ways to connect families to the necessary supports they need to break the cycle of poverty that can quite literally make them sick."

Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.