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What makes us healthy?

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Transportation and Health Equity series, Part IV

I’d like you to meet three of my fictional Portland friends (*note* all these people are fictional and the photos are from Microsoft PowerPoint):

Aaron: Aaron has lived in Portland his entire life except for his stint as a SeaBee in the Navy where he lived in Norfolk, Virginia.  Aaron moved back to Portland in order to marry his high school sweetheart and be closer to his family.  He works for a construction company, so has been wavering between employment and unemployment given the current economy.  He and his wife are proud parents of their 2-year old daughter, Dahlia.  Aaron is African-American.

Julie:  Julie is originally from Minnesota (like seemingly half of Portland) and moved to Portland after getting her degree in Economics at Carelton College.  Once in Portland, Julie landed an internship in Stumptown Coffee Co.’s marketing department.  Julie is Caucasian.

Mateo:  Mateo grew up in Troutdale and moved to Portland to attend the Art Institute of Portland.  He currently classifies himself as a ‘freelance photographer.’  Mateo is an avid soccer fan and is especially excited for the Timbers’ 2011 season to begin. Mateo is of Bolivian decent.

Each of my faux friends has different life experiences, many of which directly or indirectly influence their health.  Of course, there are personal lifestyle choices that affect Aaron, Julie and Mateo’s health - what they eat and how they do or do not exercise. 

But there are other components of health that often don’t fit into ‘health’ discussions and have been shown to be HUGELY important to one’s health, influence the diet/exercise combination, and some believe are more important than health care:

Employment. Unstable employment, and therefore, unpredictable income effects how and what people consume (food, shelter, etc.) in addition to adding to stress and loss of empowerment which is correlated with poorer health.

  

Education. Education is the most important indicator of life span and health during old age.  In Mississippi, almost 75% of adults who hadn’t completed high school reported being in less than very good health, compared with 37% of college graduates. In Vermont, which statistically is a ‘healthier’ state, 68% of adults who hadn't finished high school said they were in less than very good health, compared with 22% of college graduates

Seems convincing…this is a good motivation to learn Algebra II.  Have some fun messing with our education levels and, therefore, our health at http://www.commissiononhealth.org/Calculator.aspx.

  

Race. I’m going to parade this elephant right out of this room.  Whether or not we like it, race is a predictor of health indicators for a variety of factors that have yet to be flushed out completely in the health world but include historical racism in social and political forums. Did you know that the infant mortality rate and death from diabetes-related causes are DOUBLED in the African American population versus White or Hispanic?  Straight up scary and seriously in need of fixing.

So given where Aaron, Julie and Mateo fall on matters of employment, education, and race, I’ve put together some ‘average’ statistics:

I have to say, it doesn’t look good for Aaron. Mateo looks like he has an uphill battle.  And even Julie, who’s doing the best, in terms of ‘things that impact health’ has a 16.4% chance of being obese.  These three folks are perfect models for showing the struggle of Health Equity.  But how can the Portland Bureau of Transportation and other planning organization contribute to the he

alth of Aaron, Julie, and Mateo?  Before spilling the beans, I’m interested in what you, the loyal blog readers, are thinking.  Click the comment link and let me know what you think!

 

Read the other posts in the series:

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Spam Prevention In the Pacific Northwest, what state is Portland in?