Significant health disparity in Jefferson County identified by Health Action Partnership. Learn how you can help close the gap

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Participants at recent Health Disparity Summit.  Photo courtesy of United Way

According to the 2018 Health Equity Report released by the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, there is a significant disparity in Jefferson County between races when it comes to disability status, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality and access to healthy food.

Working to eliminate health disparities in our community, the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, which includes organizations such as the Jefferson County Department of Health, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama, Jefferson County Collaborative for Health Equity, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, and over 80 additional organizations and agencies, are working together to make Jefferson County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play.

Drew Langloh, CEO United Way of Central Alabama serves as  president of the HAP Coalition

The Findings

The findings from the 2018 Health Equity report detailing racial disparity in Jefferson County is a wake-up call.

For example:

* Life expectancy for Jefferson County in 2015 was 75.0 years compared to 75.5 years for Alabama and 78.8 years for the US Life expectancy. The
report illustrated that life expectancy varied as much as 28.9 years between certain census tracts (a census tract is roughly equivalent to a neighborhood).

* The infant mortality rate for Jefferson County in 2015 was 10.5 Deaths per 1,000 live births, almost double the national rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, and subsequently higher than the Alabama rate of 8.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate for Black mothers was 2.3 times higher than White mothers. Census tracts with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic residents and persons living in poverty were generally associated with higher rates of infant mortality.

* Overall the study found significant variation in disability status, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality and healthy food access between census tracts in the “Over the Mountain” and Trussville areas and the census tracts near the Interstate 20/59 corridor.

“Should shock all of us”

“I think the high degree of disparity between our health outcomes in Jefferson County and people in other parts of the United States should shock all of us,” said United Way of Central Alabama’s Sara Newell, Senior Vice President for Community Impact.

Newell added, “The infant mortality rate in our County was
10.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015- double the national rate and substantially higher than the rate in Alabama overall. But probably the most important take-away for me is that indicators of health and wellness are much worse along the I-20/59 corridor than in the “Over the Mountain” and Trussville areas. I’ve heard it said that your zip code is actually a better predictor of your overall health than your genetic code and this report really bears that out.”

Follow-up

The 2018 report is a follow-up to a landmark report entitled Place Matters for Health in Jefferson County, which was released in 2013.

“The last report actually prompted a great deal of conversation that resulted in significant change in the county and more intentional efforts around advancing health equity in our collective impact work,” said Dr. Monica Baskin, professor and Vice Chair of Culture and Diversity in the Department of Medicine at UAB an incoming Chair of the Health Action Partnership.

Dr. Monica Baskin, professor and Vice Chair of Culture and Diversity in the Department of Medicine at UAB an incoming Chair of the Health Action Partnership.

Addressing health disparity through Bold Goals

The Health Action Partnership is a part of the Health component of United Way’s Bold Goals, which is a vehicle to develop policies that address health disparity in our community.

“For Jefferson County in particular, institutions, that are becoming aware of the health disparity can work together through the Health Action Partnership and Bold Goals to develop policies and practices that will address the disparity,” said Baskin.

There are many examples where groups have worked together through Bold Goals to improve health and make it more equitable.

Recently, Bold Goals “built environment” group helped develop policies for sidewalks that have health equity in mind. Working with the city of Birmingham to encourage more walking, a health equity component has been added to the city’s decision-making when they create or repair sidewalks.

Limited access to healthy food is a major cause of health disparities. Through the Partnership and Bold Goals, the coalition has been exploring ways to encourage decision-makers to incentivize local governments to locate grocery stores in neighborhoods that desperately need access to healthy food.

How to be part of the solution

Photo of Birmingham from Red Mountain. Photo credit: Bham Now

The 2018 Health Equity Report is intended to stimulate more conversations about health equity and bring the entire community together to find solutions.

“For the Health Action Partnership, in 2019, one of the things we are going to do is involve individuals and residents,” concluded Baskin.

Be a part of the solution. Read the report. Learn more about Bold Goals. And lend your support toward addressing health disparity in our community.

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United Way of Central Alabama

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.