New life expectancy maps, released by the Center on Society and Health on December 2, 2015, illustrate that opportunities to lead a long and healthy life can vary dramatically by neighborhood in the cities of Denver, Phoenix, and Tulsa. In Denver, if you travel 10 miles down I-25 from Globeville to Washington Park, life expectancy can differ by as much as 11 years. Similar health gaps exist in both Phoenix and Tulsa, in which life expectancy can differ by as much as 14 and 11 years, respectively, across short distances within these cities.
Created by researchers at the Center with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the maps are the latest in a series developed to raise public awareness of the many factors that shape health, particularly social and economic factors. The dramatic health gaps featured on the maps can be used as a “conversation starter” by local officials and community organizations to raise awareness about factors outside health care that influence health.
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 maps are intended to engage a broad range of players across multiple sectors to address health disparities.
Earlier in the year, the Center and RWJF released maps for Las Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Richmond, and Raleigh/Eastern North Carolina, 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, 13 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.