Baltimore, like many cities across the country, is experiencing growing pains. With a relatively affluent metropolitan area and an abundance of high-paying jobs, the city is booming. But as wealth infiltrates some neighborhoods, others are being left behind. As a result, the city is experiencing significant gaps in both the wealth and health of its residents.
Take, for instance, two Baltimore neighborhoods, Federal Hill, located south of downtown, and Cherry Hill, one of the southernmost neighborhoods of the city. Approximately two miles apart, the two neighborhoods could not be more disparate when it comes to health.
The Federal Hill area, home to young professionals and affluent empty nesters, boasts high levels of physical activity, regular health screenings and annual check-ups. And, not surprisingly, among those good habits are equally favorable health outcomes, with low levels of obesity, asthma, mental health issues or risk of stroke.
Cherry Hill is a stark contrast; the struggling neighborhood is home to high levels of unemployment and gang violence, high instances of smoking, low physical activity and health screenings. As a result, Cherry Hill’s health outcomes are appreciably lower than Federal Hill; higher instances of obesity, mental health issues, risk of stroke and high blood pressure, to name a few.
These two neighborhoods demonstrate common challenges for growing metropolitan areas—concentrated pockets of poverty and subsequent poor health outcomes. Cities have long been aware that poorer neighborhoods face increased barriers to health, but they now have a tool to pinpoint the geographic distribution of health-related variables. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation collaborated to develop the 500 Cities Project. Providing city and census estimates, the 500 Cities Project enables cities and local health departments to have a better view of chronic disease risk, health outcomes and clinical preventive service in their city’s neighborhoods.
When looking to improve population health, knowing where disparities lie is a start. With the comprehensive data from the 500 Cities Project, public health departments and health groups can better understand their unique communities, but significant improvement requires action and planning of public health interventions.
Using data provided by the 500 Cities Project, public health groups and health systems can focus their attention on neighborhoods experiencing poor health outcomes for a specific diagnosis. They can extend mobile healthcare to improve access in these areas, work with the individuals most at risk to coordinate their care, and connect them to community services to help address the social determinants of health.
The 500 Cities Project is an important first step in improving population health. But, simply identifying the common disease factors in areas is not enough. The next step is to coordinate care by working collaboratively with community organizations, track participation, and set individuals on the path for better health.
At Healthify, we are focused on coordinating services for low-income populations in order to better address the social determinants health. If you’re interested in learning how, please contact us below!