Neighborhood Matters: Your ZIP Code And Your Health
Neighbors Unite To Fight The ZIP Code Curse
There’s a direct link between where we live and our health. In fact, many studies have found ZIP code is a better predictor of physical and mental health, quality of life and life expectancy than even DNA. The reason? Access – to clean air and water, transportation, education, safe housing and jobs. Living in a walkable neighborhood with sidewalks and public parks also makes a big difference. So does race.
These so-called “social determinants of health” mean Americans who live just a few miles apart may face dramatically different health outcomes during their lifetimes. "In some cases, life expectancy can differ by as much as 20 years in neighborhoods only about five miles apart from one another,” according to research from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health.
On this episode of TruckBeat, the team heads to neighborhoods north and east of downtown Knoxville to learn more about how ZIP code impacts health and well-being. We learn about an effort by East Knoxville organization Five Points Up to understand and combat the forces that drive the neighborhood’s health disparities. And we meet a group of women in the Parkridge neighborhood that’s determined to beat the ZIP code odds.
Listen to the story:
More about health disparities:
According to the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, there are many complex factors that combine to determine why some neighborhoods are healthier than others, even within the same city or county.
From the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health:
"Education and income are directly linked to health: Communities with weak tax bases cannot support high-quality schools and jobs are often scarce in neighborhoods with struggling economies.
Unsafe or unhealthy housing exposes residents to allergens and other hazards like overcrowding. Stores and restaurants selling unhealthy food may outnumber markets with fresh produce or restaurants with nutritious food.
Opportunities for residents to exercise, walk, or cycle may be limited, and some neighborhoods are unsafe for children to play outside.
Proximity to highways, factories, or other sources of toxic agents may expose residents to pollutants.
Access to primary care doctors and good hospitals may be limited.
Unreliable or expensive public transit can isolate residents from good jobs, health and child care, and social services.
Residential segregation and features that isolate communities (e.g., highways) can limit social cohesion, stifle economic growth, and perpetuate cycles of poverty."
Learn more about how ZIP code impacts health from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health's amazing life-expectancy maps.
East Knoxville kids work to make their neighborhood healthier:
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*Map image: RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America