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Social factors can influence metabolic health conditions in prominent ways, and this study shows that in Southern California, Latinos are much more likely to face these health risks.

Social determinants of health, which describe the complex web of factors that can impact an individual before birth and during their lifespan, help give context to community-level factors that are associated with chronic disease and health disparities. This study, published in BMC Public Health, provides an analysis of social determinants of health as they impact the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among Latinos in Southern California. The study focused on both disparities and overall health outcomes in these communities. Although genetic factors can influence diabetes and obesity onset, other community-level factors such as food access, mental health, and financial circumstances, can significantly impact these conditions, making social determinants of health a key area of study.

Measuring Social Determinants of Health

This study relied on three indices that analyze and measure different social determinants of health. These were the Healthy Places Index (HPI), Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), and CalEnviroScreen (CES). Linear regression models were used to explore associations between these index scores and adult obesity, adult diabetes, and childhood obesity. The authors found that communities with lower HPI scores showed a higher rate of metabolic disease and had a greater proportion of Latino residents. The lowest decile of HPI scores showed 71% of the population as Latino, compared to 12% in the highest decile. HPI scores explained 61% of the variability in adult obesity, 41% of the variability in childhood obesity, and 47% of the variability in adult diabetes. Similar correlations were found for the other indices used.

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Beyond Obesity and Diabetes

These findings indicate that Latinos in this population area are exposed to less healthy community conditions, which have a direct impact on their health. The data gathered also indicated an increased prevalence of poor physical health, poor mental health, and chronic asthma. Increasing deciles of disadvantage corresponded to increases in the percentage of the population that identifies as Latino, making the disparity relatively clear. The authors conclude by noting that the indices and data used show a clear increase in the negative social determinants of health among Latinos in Southern California and that additional research is needed to understand how these conditions can be altered through policy or other means.


Cleveland, J. C., 3rd, Espinoza, J., Holzhausen, E. A., Goran, M. I., & Alderete, T. L. (2023). The impact of social determinants of health on obesity and diabetes disparities among Latino communities in Southern California. BMC Public Health, 23(1), 37. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-14868-1