The articles below will be published online July 27, 2006, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health under "First Look" at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shtml. "First Look" articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. These articles are scheduled to appear in the September 2006 print issue of the Journal. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, http://www.apha.org, and is available at http://www.ajph.org. To stay up to date on the latest in public health research, sign up for new Journal content e-mail alerts at http://www.ajph.org/subscriptions/.
American Journal of Public Health Highlights
- Obesity takes a higher health toll on women
- Fewer exercise options in lower-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods
- Watching television may drain time that could be spent exercising
- Most consumers underestimate calories, fat in restaurant food; menus could help
- Inadequate asthma control could put kids at risk for school difficulties
Obesity takes a higher health toll on women
Being overweight or obese increases a person's risks for health problems and a lower quality of life than people of normal weight, but the health burden linked to weight seems to be far worse for women than men.
For example, overweight women lose 1.8 million quality-adjusted life years annually while overweight men only lose 270,000 quality-adjusted life years annually. Among the obese, women lose 3.4 million quality-adjusted life years each year, compared with 1.9 million for men.
Researchers found that much of the burden of disease among overweight and obese women is linked to lower health-related quality of life, which is a measure of health abilities such as the ability to climb a flight of stairs or walk without breathlessness and late life mortality.
The study's authors speculate that stress, anxiety and depression might account for some of the difference in the burden of disease due to overweight and obesity between men and women. However, "further research is needed to elucidate the factors that drive the gender difference in morbidity and mortality" between overweight and obese men and women.
The results came from an analysis of the 2000 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and health-related quality of life scores and the 1990-1992 National Health Interview Survey National Death Index data through the end of 1995.
[From: "Gender and the Burden of Morbidity Due to Obesity." Contact: Peter A. Muennig, MD, MPH, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, New York, firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Fewer exercise options in lower-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods
Lower-income neighborhoods and those with higher proportions of racial minorities are less likely to have gyms, sports clubs, dance studios and public golf courses.
Researchers used Census Bureau population and socio-economic status data to examine the availability of the four types of physical activity outlets among a population of more than 280 million people living in 28,050 zip codes with 52,751 available physical activity-related outlets in the year 2000.
The study found lower-income neighborhoods and those with higher proportions of racial minorities are less likely to have any commercial physical activity-related facilities and fewer overall numbers of such facilities than more affluent and predominantly white neighborhoods. The study's authors said a lack of such facilities could be one factor contributing to the lower levels of physical activity reported among minorities and the poor.
[From: "Availability of Physical Activity-Related Facilities and
Neighborhood Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics: A National Study." Contact: Lisa M. Powell, PhD, MA, BSc, University of Illinois at Chicago, email@example.com.]
Watching television may drain time that could be spent exercising
A study of predominantly low-income, racial/ethnic minority housing residents found each hour spent watching television reduced a person's level of physical activity and lessened the likelihood of getting enough daily exercise.
In the analysis of the television viewing habits of 486 adults, the average time spent watching television was 3.6 hours a day, with each hour in front of the tube associated with 144 fewer steps taken. And television viewing time also was associated with a decreased likelihood that a person would achieve the health goal of walking 10,000 steps in a day.
"Accumulating evidence clearly supports the recommendation to reduce hours of television viewing as part of a comprehensive plan to increase physical activity (and to reduce obesity)," the study's authors said. "However, such plans should also include specific recommendations for television-replacement strategies that require the exertion of physical activity."
[From: "Television viewing and pedometer-determined physical activity among multiethnic low income housing residents." Contact: Gary G. Bennett, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Most consumers underestimate calories, fat in restaurant food; menus could help
Requiring restaurants to print nutrition information on menus could be a helpful tool for the majority of diners who vastly underestimate the calories, fat and saturated fat in restaurant meals.
Consumers tend to underestimate the amount of calories in high calorie restaurant meals by almost half, and do a similarly inaccurate job in estimating fat and saturated fat content, according to a survey of about 200 adult diners. Yet when those consumers have printed nutritional information on a menu, many report they will order foods lower in calories, fat and sodium, the study found.
With 70 million meals and snacks consumed outside the home yearly in the United States, the study's findings point to a need to help Americans make wiser food choices when eating out.
[From: "Attacking the Obesity Epidemic: An Examination of the Potential Health Benefits of Nutrition Information Provision in Restaurants." Contact: Scot Burton, PhD, MBA, BA, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., email@example.com.]
Inadequate asthma control could put kids at risk for school difficulties
City-dwelling children with asthma are much more likely than their non-asthmatic peers to be enrolled in special education services at school, according to a study of randomly selected public elementary schools in New York.
The study found 34 percent of children in special education classes had an asthma diagnosis, compared with 19 percent of children in the general population. After controlling for sociodemographic factors, children with asthma were 60 percent more likely to be enrolled in special education. And those asthmatic children in special education classes were significantly more likely to be low-income and to have been hospitalized in the previous year and less likely to use peak flow meters than asthmatic children in the general population.
[From: "The Association Between Asthma and Enrollment in Special Education in Urban School Children." Contact: Luz Claudio, PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, firstname.lastname@example.org.]