Growing Up Healthy in East Harlem

Growing Up Healthy in East Harlem is a five-year longitudinal study that examines the role of the environment on childhood obesity in East Harlem, the Children’s Environmental Health Center’s (CEHC) home community in New York City. The project investigates how the environment – from gene environment interactions to neighborhood factors in the urban built-environment – influences the diet, physical activity level, and subsequent risk for childhood obesity. Key findings include:

Obesity is epidemic in 6-8 year old children living in East Harlem, New York City.

  • 24% of these children are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) above the 95th percentile – a number generally accepted as to indicate obesity.
  • 15% of children are at risk for obesity, with a BMI between 85th and 95th percentile – a number generally accepted to indicate that the child is overweight.

East Harlem children have easy access to unhealthy foods.

  • 55% live on a block with a convenience store.
  • 41% live on a block with fast food stores.

The presence of convenience stores on the same block as a child’s home was associated with a higher BMI-percentile.

  • Children living on a block with one or more convenience stores were more likely to have a higher BMI-percentile compared to children who had no convenience stores on their block.

Inequities in food store availability exist by race/ethnicity in East Harlem.

  • 100% of African American Census blocks had neither supermarkets nor grocery stores.
  • African America Census blocks were less likely to have convenience stores, as compared to racially mixed Census blocks.
  • Latino Census blocks were more likely to have convenience stores, specialty food stores, full service restaurants, and fast food restaurants.