There are clear links between race, ethnicity, geography and drivers of health outcomes in the U.S., a special report by U.S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation found.
Released Tuesday, Sept. 25, the groups analyzed social determinants of health across nearly 3,000 U.S. counties that were part of the initial Healthiest Communities rankings. The report identifies factors that influence overall well-being such as economy, housing and access to health care, and highlights diverse areas outperforming the norm.
In one of the largest assessments of social determinants of health to date, they found that communities with a greater share of White residents generally score better on health markers, than communities with a bigger share of Black residents.
Also, larger Hispanic and Native American populations are linked to even worse outcomes than other minorities.
“In-depth analysis and data-driven journalism powers the Healthiest Communities platform, allowing us to examine the relationship between public health initiatives and community health as a whole,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News. “Our reporting highlights communities that are making important strides to advance health for economically and socially diverse populations, while also empowering community leaders to seek positive change in counties facing disparities.”
The key findings of the study include: some of the strongest predictors of community performance in the assessment are also areas in which communities with large Black populations generally struggle.
These factors include homicide rates, low birth weight and, in particular, access to healthy and affordable food.
“Your ZIP code can influence your health more than your genetic code. However, even within the varying health outcomes that we see across different geographies, we also see inequality across racial and ethnic groups,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation and vice president of Community Health for Aetna, Inc. “In order to improve health equity in our country, we need to truly understand where these problems exist so that we can help support local solutions that address these unique needs. The new report from U.S. News not only uses data and research to help identify issues in different locations, but also features communities that are striving to improve health for diverse populations.”