New Resource Aims to Raise Awareness of Factors that Shape Health and Spur Action
A new Miami life expectancy map released today by researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) illustrates that opportunities to lead a long and healthy life can vary dramatically by neighborhood. In fact, if you travel less than one mile from Overtown to Downtown, life expectancy can differ by as much as 15 years (access additional life expectancy data in Miami here).
Health differences between neighborhoods are rarely due to a single cause. A growing body of research shows that a complex web of factors influence health—opportunities for education and jobs, safe and affordable housing, availability of nutritious food and places for physical activity, clean air, and access to health care, child care, and social services.
“The health differences shown in these maps aren’t unique to one area. We see them in big cities, small towns, and rural areas across America,” said Derek Chapman, Ph.D., associate director for research, VCU Center on Society and Health.
The map is the latest in a series developed to raise public awareness of the many factors that shape health, particularly social and economic factors. It can be used as a “conversation starter” by local officials and community organizations to raise awareness of the fact that there is more to health than merely caring for people when they are sick and that improving health requires a broad range of strategies and community voices at the table.
“To build a Culture of Health we must build a society where everyone, no matter where they live, the color of their skin, their financial or family situation, has the opportunity to lead a productive, healthy life,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each community must chart its own course, and every person has a role to play in achieving better health in their homes, their communities, their schools and their workplaces.”
Miami—the county seat of Miami-Dade County, a finalist for the 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize—has several efforts underway to tackle the many factors that shape health. For example:
The City of Miami launched a Community Health Initiative today that will bring free health care and employment services directly to residents at local parks. The city has joined with Amerigroup to provide health, dental and vision screenings, and Florida International University to provide mobile 3-D mammograms as well as at-home consultations to those patients who may need it. A mobile unit from Career Source of South Florida will also offer workforce development and employment training.
The Common Good Initiative—spearheaded by Allegany Franciscan Ministries with support from the Miami-Dade Regional Commission, local nonprofits, and other community leaders—has invested more than $80,000 in Overtown since 2014, funding opportunities for better health that include student scholarships, youth employment conferences, urban farming projects, and nutrition education seminars.
The Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade, an initiative launched by the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County and comprised of more than 161 organizations, is dedicated to creating healthy environments and eliminating health disparities among residents. Partners involved in this effort have worked to expand local farmers’ markets and community gardens, improved nutrition and physical activity opportunities in child care centers, and increased worksite wellness programs among member organizations.
VCU and RWJF released maps for Las Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Richmond, Raleigh/ Eastern North Carolina, Phoenix, Denver, and Tulsa earlier this year and the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America released similar maps prepared by VCU of Washington, DC, New Orleans, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and the San Joaquin Valley in California in 2013. In the coming months, additional maps will be released for cities and rural areas across the country. View the maps at societyhealth.vcu.edu/maps. Follow the discussion on Twitter at #CloseHealthGaps.