The 2016 County Health Rankings released [March 16] provide a chance for every community to take a hard look at whether everyone living there has opportunity for health and well-being. The Rankings look at many interconnected factors that influence community health including education, jobs, smoking, physical inactivity and access to health care. This year, we added a new measure on residential segregation to help communities see where disparities may cluster because some neighborhoods or areas have been cut off from opportunities and investments that fuel good health.
The effects of residential segregation are often stark: blacks and Hispanics who live in highly segregated and isolated neighborhoods have lower housing quality, higher concentrations of poverty, and less access to good jobs and education. As a consequence, they experience greater stress and have a higher risk of illness and death.
Although there are pockets of high residential segregation scattered across the country, residential segregation of blacks and whites appears highest in the Northeast and Great Lakes region and lowest along the Southeastern seaboard. It should be noted that, for 35 percent of U.S. counties, the black population was too small to calculate the residential segregation measure.
It’s important to note that for some population groups, living among others who share their cultural beliefs and practices can help build social connections that can lessen the health risks of hardship and neighborhood disadvantage.
We think every community should be paying attention to the ways that residential patterns may be a barrier to good health. There are approaches that can help reduce the health risks caused by segregation and lead to more equitable, healthier communities:
- Identifying the most pressing health needs in every community, and prioritizing those areas for investment.
- Access to safe, affordable housing and financing for everyone, and eliminating housing discrimination.
- Safe, reliable public transportation accessible to all.
- Jobs with wages that enable people to take care of themselves and their families.
- Improving access to healthy food in every community.
Read the full article.