Report: Place, Zip Codes Matter

Consider these facts, from a new study out this week:

  • Life expectancy varies by as much as 21 years in the San Joaquín Valley depending on zip code. Zip codes with the lowest life expectancy tend to have a higher percentage of Latino and low-income residents.
  • Areas of the Valley with the highest levels of respiratory risk have the highest percentage of Latino residents, while areas with the lowest levels of respiratory risk have the lowest percentage of Latino residents.
  • The health status of first-generation Latino immigrants is similar to the white population, but on average health deteriorates for second and subsequent generations of Latinos, largely due to economic vulnerabilities, inadequate educational opportunities, and a lack of political power relative to whites.

These new statistics are highlighted in ‘Place Matters for Health in the San Joaquín Valley: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All,’ a report prepared by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in conjunction with the Center of Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The report underscores the strong correlation between income and educational attainment, and premature mortality. As the income level and educational attainment of an area decrease, premature mortality generally increases, according to the study.

This information is hardly surprising. You only need to spend time in some of the Valley’s poorest communities, talking to people about their health and environmental concerns, to know there is great inequity in our region.

What struck me about this report, though, is how it frames the Valley’s health disparities in a larger social context. The report describes how the Valely is bolstered by agribusiness; neighborhoods are shaped by waves of immigration and patterns of class and racial segregation; and the region has been the home of national movements for human rights.

The report concludes:

“In this context, this study adds to the growing and consistent literature showing how the region’s striking social class and racial/ethnic health inequalities are at least partly explained by historical forces and current policies that concentrate low-income people, people of color, and recent immigrants in urban neighborhoods and rural settlements that lack many of the most fundamental supports for health and well-being.”

Read the full report here.

More from Harvesting Health on health disparities in the Valley: 

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