Article on Planetizen by Anne Price and Ariel Godwin, posted January 16th 2012
I appreciate that the piece begins with caution; the misuse or misread of statistics can fool some into thinking correlation=causation.
A wonderful depiction of each confounding factor that relates % of obese and diabetic people. The article moves a bit slowly; a separate map for each confounding factor, making it read more like a scholarly journal than a free article on the interweb.
Wide-ranging studies should be read at a slower pace, as to avoid generalizations that one confounding factor, ex: higher Education, causes lower % of obesity or diabetes. Generalizations that put distance between the speaker and the studied, make it easier to blame the populations with high obesity or diabetes, ignoring many other pieces to the puzzle. “Why don’t they just modify their sedentary lifestyle? Why don’t they just choose to live differently?” I’ve heard it before from some smart people (and it makes me cringe a bit). As seen this this paragraph under Conclusions:
“Finally, we’d like to note that as important as it is to be careful in drawing a direct link between commute modes and health, it is just as important to avoid hastily drawing conclusions about the reasons why commute modes vary across the U.S. Often commute modes are described as being “choices” in blogs and academic journals, or individuals are described as “favoring” one type of transport over another.
Just as there is more to the story of obesity than just car travel, there are a multitude of reasons why individuals in various regions end up in their cars, from differences in walkability of neighborhoods and availability of public transportation to climate and the need to chauffeur children. Commute modes should not be interpreted as “choices” unless we can be sure that’s what they represent.”
Points that resounded with me:
*Data shows a strong relationship between commuting habits and obesity rates. However, the number of active walking/biking commuters to work is small (the top quintile begins at 5.5%) and it is more likely that counties with high percentages of active commuters share other characteristics not as easily seen that contributes to their good health.
*Two-thirds excess risk in the ‘diabetes belt,’ are not modifiable factors, (genetics?). ”Importantly, research shows that one-third of the excess risk in the diabetes belt can be attributed to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, which are modifiable factors (Barker et al. 2011).”
*It is not as simple to say that spending more time in your car causes you to have worse health.
A good read and worth your time. Ariel Godwin and Anne Price are two individuals whose work I will follow!