PLACE MATTERS for health in important ways according to a growing body of research. Differences in neighborhood conditions powerfully predict who is healthy, sick, and lives 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 Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Orleans Parish PLACE MATTERS team are very pleased to add to the existing knowledge base with this report, “Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All.” The report, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health and written in conjunction with the Center on Human Needs at the Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, provides a comprehensive analysis of the range of social, economic, and environmental conditions in Orleans Parish and documents their relationship to the health status of the parish’s residents.
The study finds that social, economic, and environmental conditions in low-income and nonwhite 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 the parish varies by as much as 25 years depending on the zip code. Zip codes 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 high concentrations of people living in poverty, overcrowded households, households without a vehicle, and vacant housing are among the factors that predict health inequalities in the parish.
The overall pattern in this report — and those of others that 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.