How much does where you live affect your health?
Some health experts say it makes a big difference.
“As a society, we tend to focus very much on the individual, and the individual factors matter. But we live in environments that make it easier or more difficult for us to be healthy,” said health educator Angie Blair.
A location’s transportation system, school funding and walkability are all elements that can affect a person’s health.
“For instance, communities that have lower income and education levels tend to have higher rates of asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” Blair said.
Whether you’re in a more urban area or in the country, having access to healthy foods, physicians and programs can also determine health habits.
“A person could live in a city and still not have access, as opposed to a person could also be living out in a rural area and have issues with transportation,” said Beth Mowrey with the Frederick County Health Department in Maryland. “So you can’t really say. It’s not an apples to apples kind of thing.”
When it comes to programming, the Frederick County Health Department tries to reach all areas of the county. A diabetes prevention program is just wrapping up in Emmitsburg, and another session is about to begin in Frederick.
“We’ve had them sprinkled throughout the county, including city-based as well as rural,” Mowrey said. “I think people who have participated and completed it have done really well.”
In 2015, 61 percent of Frederick County adults reported being overweight or obese. In Montgomery County, that number was 57 percent in 2016.
Overall in Maryland, 64 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Based on the most recent data available, which is 2015, the number of Frederick County residents reporting to be overweight or obese has decreased,” Mowrey said.
The issue of obesity in children is a serious one, too. Two D.C. area residents have created a free app called Sworkit, so kids can access workouts whether they live in the city or the country.
“We want to start to help these kids incorporate this into their lives now, because if they pick up these habits now, then hopefully they can continue,” said Gregory Coleman, president and COO of Sworkit.
Coleman said getting kids interested early can also make for healthy adults.
“One of our goals with this initiative, with the Sworkit Youth Initiative, is to reduce childhood obesity by 50 percent by 2026,” Coleman said.