Play space lack tied to obesity

Los Angeles COUNTY: Overweight kids more likely to be found in poorer cities with less park space.

By Melissa Evans, Staff Writer, Long Beach Press Telegram

Never has the link between poverty and child obesity been more apparent.

A new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that the richest cities with the most public open space have the lowest rates of obese children. By contrast, cities with larger low-income populations, such as Hawthorne, Lawndale, Carson and Gardena, have more overweight kids.

"Poverty is one of the determinants of obesity, there's no question about that for a whole bunch of reasons," said Dr. Jonathon Fielding, the county's director of public health and lead medical officer.

For the first time, the county used information on obesity rates from the California Department of Education and compared it to a number of factors that contribute to economic hardship, such as unemployment rates, education levels and households that earn less than the federal poverty line. The report also included the amount of park and recreation space within each of 128 cities in the greater Los Angeles area.

Manhattan Beach, one of the most affluent cities in the South Bay, ranked second best in the report with only 4 percent of children who meet the criteria for obesity. The city was the fourth wealthiest among those studied, and had one of the highest ratios of park area per capita - 5.7 acres per 1,000 residents.

Meanwhile, less than a couple miles inland, the city of Lawndale had one of the lowest ratios of park space - 0.6 acres per 1,000 residents
- and one of the highest child-obesity rates of 27 percent. The city ranked 88th among those studied for economic hardship.