Place Matters

I did not do as well as I thought I would on the Health Equity Quiz; I received a 4 out of 10. I was surprised by how little I know about global health and the economic effects on health right here at home. One of the statistics I found surprising was that America was 29th in life expectancy. I guessed that we would be in the top 5 or at least top 10, but apparently that was 50 years ago. Living in America you always hear how great and powerful our country is, but it really says something that one of the supposedly most progressive countries in the world is only 29th in life expectancy, especially when you consider that we spend more than twice as much per person on healthcare than any other country. It really put in perspective how flawed the American health system is compared to other countries.

Another fact from the quiz that I found surprising was that there is a 15 year life expectancy gap between the highest and lowest income areas right here in the U.S. 15 years is what I would expect the life expectancy gap to be between America and some third world countries, but not on our own soil. This reflects how big the economic gap has grown between the wealthy and the poor that some people live in areas with such terrible conditions that they get an average of 15 years less of life than those who live in affluent areas.

While development, urbanization, and globalization can bring better health to some local populations, for others it means just the opposite. One community, High Point in Seattle, WA, was a community that was developed during World War II as temporary housing for defense workers, but soon turned into a low income neighborhood due to the availability of cheap housing. With low income areas comes low availability for healthy food, such as fresh produce, areas of recreation and exercise, such as parks, and clean air. In High Point, the cheaply made houses and the close proximity to the old defense factories caused the air quality of the neighborhood to be very poor which resulted in a high prevalence of asthma in children, in addition to increased stress on the parents which lead to further health issues for the families. However, this neighborhood was fortunate enough to be a subject of interest for neighborhood reformers, and received new, air quality improving houses, gardens for produce, and parks, which lead to the overall increased health of the community.

Asthma was a major epidemic in High Point before its reform. The asthma outbreaks were partly due to the airborne pollutants and poor air quality around the neighborhood. In addition, the poor quality of the houses caused damp, moldy environments within the homes which also increased the risk of asthma.

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