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Place Matters for Health


place mattersYour zip code may be as important as your genetic code in predicting your health outcomes and life expectancy.
Neighborhood conditions— quality of public schools; age, density, and size of housing; availability of medical care and healthy foods; availability of jobs; levels of exposure to environmental degradation; and availability of exercise options—powerfully predict who is healthy, who is sick, and who lives longer.
The Jefferson County Place Matters Team, in conjunction with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, undertook a study of the relationship between
place, race, and health as we reflect upon the 50th anniversary of major civil rights events in 1963 in Birmingham.
The study found that:
• In 2011, more than 13% of households in Jefferson County had annual incomes below the federal poverty level (FPL).
• Overall, the county’s racial residential segregation has declined over the past 30 years.
• Life expectancy for all residents of Jefferson County has increased over the past several years, but inequities exist across sex and racial groups with Black males having the shortest life expectancy (69.1 year) vs. Black females (76.7 years), white male (74.3 years) or white females (79.3). Further, life expectancy can vary by as much as 20 years on average across census tracts in Jefferson County.
• In 2010, the infant mortality rate in Jefferson County was 2.5 times higher for Black mothers than white mothers at 16.1 per 1,000 live births vs. 6.4 per 1,000 live births, respectively
• “Over the Mountain” census tracts were found to have a higher percentage of white residents, less poverty, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and greater healthy food access that residents living along the Interstate 20/59 corridor.

Study recommendations:
• Embed health and health equity throughout the new City of Birmingham’s Comprehensive Plan.
• Support legislation to repeal sales tax on groceries.
• Support the expansion of Medicaid in the state of Alabama.
• Protect and seek the more effective and efficient utilization of indigent care funds and funds to support public health.
• Fund and support collaborative efforts to bring diverse groups of people and
organizations together to find local solutions to improve the health and quality
of life of all who work, live, and play in Jefferson County.

Copies of the report are available at the Joint Center’s website, www.jointcenter.org.

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