What your zip code means for your health

Could your zip code have anything to do with your life expectancy?

It’s hard to believe your zip code plays a major role in your health but research is showing where you live can impact your health considerably. Most people consider genetics, lifestyle, and risk-taking behaviors as being something affecting life expectancy positively or negatively. When in the company of people who are concerned with diet and exercise, it is easier to make healthy choices. The reverse seems to be the norm as well, if individuals live in an area with few parks or outdoor spaces, low access to nutritious food or safety is a concern, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports life expectancy is compromised.

 According to the CDC it should be possible to change the percentages on a national level listed below:

Based on a review of the recommendations from the CDC, it seems like a ‘no-brainer’ to make lifestyle changes for the population’s longevity.  It can be difficult to make positive behavioral changes to our health, especially when living in an unhealthy environment or zip code where it becomes nearly impossible to make these changes.

U.S. Health Inequity by the Numbers from the federal government on life expectancy and  The Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050, non-Hispanic white people will constitute about half the population, down from 67 percent in 2005.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and Latinos are twice as likely to live in poverty as whites and Asians.
  • All minorities generally rate their health in surveys as poorer than whites do. About 50 percent of blacks report they have at least one chronic disease.
  • About 70 percent of black adults are obese compared with 54 percent of whites. Some 40 percent of rural Americans are obese versus 33 percent of urban residents.
  • Minorities are more likely to have diabetes than whites, led by American Indians and Alaskan natives with 18 percent versus 8 percent for whites.
  • College graduates can expect to live at least five years longer than people who have not finished high school.

What can be done to make a positive difference and improve the social determinants of health? 

The Pew Report mentions 84 percent of low-income adults have access to a mobile phone and one in three mobile phone owners have looked up health information on their mobile phone. Changing health in environments with poor health needs to consider the positive impacts that can be made by using familiar resources people can access.  Positive results will benefit the economy across the board saving up to 84, 000 lives per year also reducing the cost of health disparities that cost us over $309 billion per year.

Health educators work in communities to extend partnerships to change health disparity conversations into health equity conversations and empower communities to make positive changes in health.  

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