USC has been awarded a federally funded research center to explore why childhood obesity affects some populations more than others.
The Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center will study pregnant women and their infants over time in low-income, urban minority communities in Los Angeles that have both high obesity rates and wide-ranging exposure to environmental pollutants.
Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Center for Obesity Research Center, and Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute will collaborate on the initiative.
“One of the most striking concerns about the obesity epidemic is the ethnic disparity among women and children,” said Dr. Carrie Breton, assistant professor at Keck Medicine of USC and co-principal investigator of the center, which will try to determine how environmental factors influence childhood obesity. “Rates of childhood obesity, pregnancy-related obesity and their associated health consequences are disproportionately high in Hispanic women and children.”
For example, in Boyle Heights — home to one of the largest Hispanic/Mexican populations in the United States — 50 percent of teens are overweight or obese, compared to 34 percent in Los Angeles County and 29 percent statewide. Located at the confluence of Interstates five and 10, the 101 Freeway and State Route 60, Boyle Heights also faces some of the worst pollution in the county and has a disproportionately high poverty rate (33 percent).