City Maps: Anticipated Life Span Compared by Zip Codes

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

“Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it can.” Nicholas Sparks

And Now for Something Completely Different (Monty Python’s Flying Circus): City Maps is a project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/features/Commission/resources/city-maps.html )- “Across America, babies born just a few miles apart have dramatic differences in life expectancy. To improve health we need to improve people’s opportunities to make healthy choices—in the places where they live, learn, work, and play.”

A study examining life expectancy by USA Zip Codes was posted by scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA; go here to view the site: http://www.societyhealth.vcu.edu/work/the-projects/mapping-life-expectancy.html

To-date the following areas have been mapped: Washington, DC region; New Orleans, LA; Kansas City, MO; San Joaquin Valley, CA; and Minneapolis, MN.  The VCU project is to create maps for 20 new cities and rural areas.  They have compiled results for the following 5 cities: Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Las Vegas, NV; New York City, NY; and Richmond, VA. The over-arching question is why are some neighborhoods healthier than other neighborhoods?

Their data are displayed in maps and tables.  You can enter your own Zip Code, and compare it to your neighboring communities or these other cities in the USA.  Clearly, your question is going to be “Does where you live affect your health and life expectancy?” The VCU researchers commented: “The maps illustrate the vastly different health outcomes experienced by Americans living just a few miles apart and serve as a conversation starter about the social determinants of health.”

My local newspaper highlighted a Zip Code comparison in Raleigh, NC: “Using U.S. Census data and state death records, the researchers calculated that babies born today in ZIP code 27617, which includes the Brier Creek area of Raleigh, can be expected to live to 88, while babies born in 27610, including Southeast Raleigh, are expected to live to only 76. According to Zillow.com, the median home value in the Brier Creek ZIP code is $252,600, while in the Southeast Raleigh ZIP code that value is $129,400.”
“Other studies have found relatively poor health and shorter lifespans in communities of lower income. A difference in life expectancy of only a few years can signal a big discrepancy in public health, said Jim Marks of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the (VCU) study.” (Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article29963712.html#storylink=cpy )

There are neither easy answers nor quick solutions to what is shown the Zip Code and life expectancy study. One step that could help is continued improvement of health education.  However, there are so many other factors that influence our lives, as evidenced in the story being revealed by the VCU study.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” Isaac Asimov

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