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Community Environments Play a Complex Role in Health Interventions

Pregnant women in a group talking

March 6, 2019

Mindful eating is a relatively new approach to helping people make more nutritious choices by paying careful attention to what they eat, given that stress contributes to overeating. New research, conducted by Irene Headen, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health, looked at the effectiveness of a mindful eating intervention on the health of overweight or obese pregnant women.

“I assessed the impact of several neighborhood variables on the cardiometabolic health of 207 black, white, and Latina women,” Headen says, “including resource environments that offered food, banks, schools, etc., and neighborhood income level. The women were assessed for weight gain during pregnancy, impaired glucose tolerance during pregnancy, and weight retention after pregnancy, while participating in the intervention.

“We discovered that the women living in the high-income, high-resource communities did not always have better health outcomes than women living in low-income communities that were also high-resource environments,” Headen says. Women who were in neighborhoods that were not concordant with their income level actually had poorer cardiometabolic outcomes.

“Our research suggests that neighborhood context influences the effectiveness of health interventions, and that high-risk women in well-off neighborhoods may need additional support to fully benefit,” Headen says.

Read the study.