Expanding the Health Conversation

Contribute to a Healthy Community Display Display

Contribute to a Healthy Community Display Display (Photo credit: Ryan Somma)

With the roll-out of the new healthcare law, there has been a lot of conversation about affordability.  Whether you’re anti-healthcare reform or are lauding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you are likely determining how ACA will affect you financially.

However, there has been little talk in the mainstream media about accessibility to health. This is particularly troubling since overcoming obstacles to health and wellness can only occur when all people have access to education, food, and nutrition.  In addition, addressing health inequity requires the elimination of barriers and unfair policies and practices as they relate to the environment, housing, safety, jobs, and transportation.

Access to safe neighborhoods, healthy housing, healthy foods, transportation, education, and employment opportunities all play an important role in our health and wellness. The Baltimore City Health Department explains, “Generally, it’s assumed that people with higher levels of education and income have greater access to and control over health-promoting resources and opportunities. However, the mounting evidence from national scientific research indicates that where you live matters. All city policies affect health, including housing, education, labor, finance, transportation, recreation and planning/zoning policy.”

In 2010, the Baltimore City Health Department created a Health Disparities Report Card to begin to identify some of the issues. Some of the findings prove that where you live matters:

  • Residents in one affluent neighborhood live on average 20 years longer than residents in a neighborhood only 6 miles away
  • Mortality rates for heart disease are three times higher for those with a high school education or less than mortality rates for college graduates
  • Those living in a household with an annual income of $15,000 or less are twice as likely to report having diabetes than those from a household where the income is $75,000 or more

These correlations between where you live and rates for certain health diseases are not unique to Baltimore City. Health inequities can be found in cities across the country.

It is not enough to recognize that disparities exist.  We all must advocate that health inequity “be tackled through inter-agency cooperation” and that local policies have the health and wellness of everyone in our communities in mind.

What else can we do to end health inequities in our communities, states and regions? Share your comments below.

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Adiyah Ali

I have over 10 years of experience in grassroots and community organizing, facilitation and training, communications and outreach, issue advocacy and policy development, and have a proven track record in advancing social and economic justice campaigns in support of marginalized and disadvantaged populations.As a Project Specialist with Campaign Consultation, Inc. I provide communications and content development support for national service clients such as the Social Innovation Fund and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Read more.