Equity Matters in Baltimore Report Examines How Zip Code May be Higher Predictor for Life Expectancy than Many Other Conditions

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Baltimore, MD – The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies today released a report documenting how neighborhood social and economic conditions in Baltimore powerfully shape racial and ethnic health inequities in the city.

equity matters - place matters

Studies Prove Place and Equity Matters in Health Matters

Up to 30 Year Gap in Mortality for Residents Living Neighborhoods Two Miles Apart

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The report, “Place Matters for Health in Baltimore: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All,” finds that residents’ place of residence is an important indicator of their health and health risks. Importantly, because of persistent racial and class segregation, place of residence is an especially important driver of the poorer health outcomes of the city’s non-white and low-income residents.

The report, prepared by the Joint Center and the Baltimore Place Matters team, Equity Matters, Inc., in conjunction with the Center for Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities(NIMHD) of the National Institutes of Health. The study provides a comprehensive analysis of the range of social, economic, and environmental conditions in Baltimore—particularly as it relates to the quality of housing and educational opportunities—and documents their relationship to the health status of the city’s residents.

The study finds that social, economic, and environmental conditions in low-income and non-white neighborhoods make it more difficult for people in these neighborhoods to live healthy lives. Among the study’s key findings are that life expectancy in Baltimore varies by as much as 30 years depending on the census tract, and that census tracts with the lowest life expectancy tend to have a higher percentage of people of color and low-income residents. Community-level risk factors, such as poor quality housing and education, are among the factors that predict health inequalities in the city. Residents in census tracts characterized by a high density of liquor stores, vacant properties, rodent- or insect-infested homes, and lead exposure have an average life expectancy that is six to nine years shorter than residents of census tracts with the lowest rates of these characteristics. Similarly, residents in areas with a better educational environment—such as a greater percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree, lower school absenteeism rates, and fewer students scoring below basic proficiency levels—live nearly nine years longer than residents of neighborhoods with poorer educational environments.

“A person’s place of residence should not limit their opportunities to enjoy a healthy life,” according to Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “Differences in neighborhood conditions are key to determining who will be healthy, who will get sick and who will live longer. And because of patterns of residential segregation, these differences are the fundamental causes of health inequities among different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.”

“The overall pattern in this report – and those of other reports the Joint Center has conducted with other Place Matters communities– suggests that we need to tackle the structures and systems that create and perpetuate inequality to fully close racial and ethnic health gaps,” said Dr. Brian D. Smedley, Vice President and Director of the Joint Center Health Policy Institute. “Accordingly, because the Joint Center seeks not only to document these inequities, we are committed to helping remedy them.”

The Joint Center’s Place Matters initiative, which is generously supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, helps leaders in 24 communities around the country to identify and address social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health. “We look forward to continuing to work with leaders in Cook County and other communities to ensure that every child, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or place of residence, can enjoy the opportunity to live a healthy, safe, and productive life,” said Dr. Smedley.

"Certain neighborhoods have burdens that are reflected in their health," said Michael Scott, Chief Equity Officer and Founder of Equity Matters Inc., a Baltimore advocacy group that promotes health equity and acts as a bridge between community academia, business, and policy and decision makers. "Certain neighborhoods have certain benefits and privileges and that is what their health looks like."

"The community should have a direct voice in housing, zoning, transportation, education and all things that affect health," Scott said. "They should be vocal and active and aware. That is the hallmark of a healthy community. That is because they feel empowered and have less chronic stress aka “allostatic load”. Simply put less chronic stress leads to
less chronic disease. It is important to have the right policies, but if the community isn't involved in making sure these policies come to life, they ultimately will not be healthy."
Copies of the report are available via link at the Equity Matters website: http://www.equity-matters.org

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation’s leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. To learn more, please visit http://www.jointcenter.org.

Equity Matters, Inc. (EM) seeks to build a social movement of citizens, community organizations, public officials, government agency employees, students, business, and faith leaders to demand and promote fair access to the social, economic, and political resources and opportunities necessary for maximum individual and community well-being. http://www.equity-matters.org

To contact us: 410-449-0378 or info@equity-matters.org

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