Tulsa World, November 3, 2007: Obesity, poverty links discussed

Posted on

by: GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer

Food is a sensitive subject when it comes to reasons why people in poverty are disproportionately more obese than the general population, according to a speaker at the Childhood Obesity Conference Friday at St. Francis Hospital.

But $1 can buy 200 calories of nutritious food or 800 calories of non-nutritious food, said Monica Bein, who works in child guidance at the Tulsa City-County Health Department.

“Food can be touchy, because people ask how can a person be fat and poor?” Bein said. “People think if you are poor, then you have to be skinny.

“But it is more expensive to eat healthy. When you have $10 in food stamps left, do you get a $4 bag of apples or 12 Little Debbie snacks for 99 cents? People in poverty are going to go for quantity every time.”

Bein stresses that professionals need to understand the mind-set of people in poverty before they alter behavior.

“If you want to get people in poverty to eat more healthy, ask them,” Bein said. “We spend too much time and money on the people we serve without getting their input.”

The conference, “Our Kids: Unfit and Overfed,” targeted medical professionals and social workers to gain a better understanding of childhood obesity and best practices to attack the problem.

Obesity ranks as one of the most common child and adolescent chronic diseases, with one in three children at risk for Type II diabetes.

About 50 percent to 70 percent of obese children remain obese as adults.

Other sessions included a look at programs in the Cherokee Nation, St. Francis and the University of Oklahoma Bedlam clinics.

Bein spoke on “Obesity and the Poor: Communicating Fitness and Nutrition to the Underserved.” She walked the participants through a circle filled with the different challenges for the poor.

The circle was filled with how poor people work several jobs and still have trouble finding affordable housing, child care and transportation, and preventive health care is nonexistent.

“Obesity and eating habits will not change until part of this circle is stable,” Bein said.

Bein explained how poor areas lack grocery stores with quality and affordable fruits and vegetables and safe areas for exercise.

She touched on how poor people face stereotypes from people of other classes.

For example, a food-stamp certification officer in Missouri once told Bein that if an applicant had nails that looked professionally done, she would find a way to deny the application.

“She thought if the woman could afford nails, she could afford food,” Bein said.

But when Bein asked food-stamp clients about their nails, many had bartered for professional services or received the services through friends and family.

“Many did not pay a cent for their nails,” Bein said. “I want to give you another way to look at it and not make judgments.”

Bein suggested that healthful recipes have fewer than five ingredients and take less than 10 minutes of preparation time.

“We all want to be healthy,” Bein said. “But have to have the same goals. It’s hard to say, ‘Eat healthier because your heart will be better years from now’ when a person is worried about what to eat today.”

« Back to News