U.S. County “Food Swamp” Severity and Hospitalization Rates among Adults with Diabetes: A Nonlinear Relationship
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U.S. County “Food Swamp” Severity and Hospitalization Rates among Adults with Diabetes: A Nonlinear Relationship
  • Published Date:

    February 15 2020

  • Source:
    Soc Sci Med. 249:112858
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    Soc Sci Med
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    The relationship between food environments and diabetes morbidity is vastly understudied, despite the well-recognized linkage between dietary quality and diabetes complications. Further, literature demonstrates that attributes of places can have nonlinear relationships with health outcomes. This study examines the extent to which "food swamps" are associated with greater rates of hospitalizations for complications among adults with diabetes over time as well as the linearity of this relationship. We conduct a longitudinal county-level analysis of 832 counties across 16 U.S. states in 2010, 2012, and 2014 using data from the USDA Food Environment Atlas and the AHRQ Health Care Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases. Food swamp severity is measured as the percentage of food outlets in a county that sell primarily unhealthy foods. Hierarchical linear mixed models with county random intercepts are estimated, controlling for area-level covariates and state and year fixed effects. Curvilinear relationships are explored by additively incorporating quadratic terms. We find that, over the study period, mean food swamp severity remained relatively stable. Mean hospitalization rates decreased from 296.72 to 262.82 hospitalizations per 1000 diabetic adults (p < 0.001). In adjusted models, greater food swamp severity was associated with higher hospitalization rates in a curvilinear manner (severity: β = 2.181, p = 0.02; severity2: β = -0.017, p = 0.04), plateauing at approximately 64% unhealthy outlets, a saturation point observed in 17% of observations. Policies that limit saturation of the environment with unhealthy outlets may help in the prevention of diabetic complications, but more saturated counties will likely require more extensive intervention.
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