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MCAT

Unit 4: Lesson 1

Foundations of behavior passages

Demographic disparities in food resources

Problem

The lack of reliable or stable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable nutritious food contributes to poor physical and mental status. This food insecurity, at a moderate level, contributes to anxiety and worry, and results in the need to adjust the household budget, often foregoing other basic needs in order to make sure the family is fed. At a severe level, food insecurity results in hunger (going without food for extended period of time), resulting in serious health problems. This is often more prevalent in certain segments of the population due to the lack of money or other resources.
A group of researchers found that more than 2.9 million low-income adults in California experienced periods during the year when they could not afford to put food on the table. Of these 2.9 million adults with food insecurity, almost 900,000 adults experienced episodes of hunger. In order to further study which social groups are impacted the most by food insecurity, the researchers utilized data collected from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS 2003). Between August 2003 and February 2004, 42,044 households were interviewed in CHIS 2003, and the findings on food in security were based on 11,975 interviews of adults living in households with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. The survey only interviewed persons living in households with telephones; however, statistical adjustments were made to compensate for non-telephone households.The survey did not interview homeless adults. Respondents reported on their food security over the 12 months prior to the interview. Some detailed results are displayed below.
Figure 1: Prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in California within vulnerable adult demographics below 200% poverty, California, 2003
Source: 2003 California Health Interview Survey *Percentages indicate food insecurity or hunger experienced within each group.
In a separate study on adolescents ages 12-17 (n=1200), researchers looked at the racial distribution of teens who experienced income related food risk (IRFR) and whether teens were overweight or at risk for being overweight.
Figure 2: Reported IRFR, by race/ethnicity and weight status, California teens, 2004. California Teen Eating, Exercise, and Nutrition Survey (CalTEENS).
*IRFR includes teens who reported being hungry in the past 12 months or lived in households that received food stamps or food assistance.
Source: Adapted from G. G. Harrison et al. “More than 2.9 Million Californians Now Food Insecure—One in Three Low-Income, An Increase in Just Two Years” Copyright 2005. UCLA Health Policy Research Brief. California Adolescent Health 2009. California Department of Health Care Services.
Another study found that food insecurity is positively associated with anxiety disorders among Californians in 2004. Based on this result and the survey results in Figure 1, which socially vulnerable group is likely to be at greater risk of anxiety disorder?
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