Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Aetna Foundation: Closing the Health Divide, One Community at a Time
Among the greatest challenges we're faced with today, is the growing health divide in underserved communities. Right here in the United States, there are people who have lower life expectancies than populations of many third-world countries. You can find out your own life expectancy -- not through your family history or by visiting your doctor's office, but by looking at something as simple as your address. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your zip code is a greater indicator of your life expectancy, and has a greater impact on your health, than genetics.
For example, look at the city of Boston. According to U.S. Census data, individuals living in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood have a life expectancy of just 58.9 years -- which is how long the average American lived in the early 1920s. Geography has such a profound impact on health because it determines access to care, services, information and healthy food.
As a cardiologist, I've seen firsthand the impact that location has on underserved communities. According to the CDC, one in two Americans are impacted by chronic diseases. Heart disease and diabetes are two of the top ten causes of death among African Americans and Hispanics face a 66 percent higher risk of diabetes than their white counterparts.
We know that these figures can't be changed overnight, but by working in communities to reach people where they are, I know that we can make a difference. At The Aetna Foundation, we're doing just that by implementing programs in schools, churches in neighborhoods, and in community parks. . .