A novel attempt to improve health in South Los Angeles by banning the opening of new fast-food restaurants isn’t working. In fact, obesity has actually increased in in the area since the ban went into effect, according to a new study by RAND Corp.
The L.A. law was unanimously approved by the City Council seven years ago. It marked the first time a big American city successfully targeted the fast food industry in an effort to improve residents’ health. The law banned the opening of new “stand-alone” fast food restaurants in area with a population of about 700,000 people, where obesity rates are the highest in the city.
But RAND says it has had no impact. Using data compiled by UCLA researchers, RAND found that the percentage of overweight and obese residents in the targeted area actually increased between 2008 and 2012 – from 63 percent to 75 percent. The number of County residents carrying extra pounds went up overall during that time, but the rate of increase was higher in South L.A.
The RAND conclusions contradict the findings of the non-profit Community Health Councils, which says obesity has actually dropped by three percent in the county.
Councilman Bernard Parks – who co-authored the law – says he’s not surprised by the results of the RAND study. He says the law was not intended to have an immediate effect, but was a first step in promoting healthier eating habits in an area of the city with high rates of weight-related illness.