According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, people living just a few blocks away can have vastly different life expectancies. In one Upstate neighborhood, residents are expected to live 16 years less than another community just 5 miles away.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has an incredible online tool that allows us to compare life expectancies in specific zip-codes” said Kelly Wilkins, Executive Director of the American Heart Association. “It’s quite alarming to learn that people living in City View have an average life-expectancy of 66-years. When you compare that with the life-expectancy in Simpsonville, which is 82-years, you realize there are some major community barriers that need to be addressed”.
In an effort to tackle the social determinants of health in the Upstate, the American Heart Association is taking a new approach on how they are working within the local community.
“We’ve realized that we can’t do it alone” said Wilkins. “So, we are looking at ways we can collectively work with other organizations and non-profits to implement policy, systems and environmental changes. By focusing on policies, systems and environments, we feel we can make the biggest impact”.
Over the past several months, the American Heart Association has worked to conduct over 30 community interviews with local organizations to better understand the biggest health needs, priorities, and barriers. Based on those interviews, they are focusing on 2 major health priorities which include:
- Increasing access to healthy eating and physical activity
- Increasing access to primary care and mental health resources
“These priorities are ‘big picture’” said Wilkins. “In order to be successful in our approach, we have to dig a little deeper so we can develop strategies to get there. Right now, we’re focusing on barriers like transportation, housing, and education which will in turn, create a ripple affect in improving health in our more vulnerable populations”.
For more information on the local efforts contact Nora Farrell at Nora.Farrell@heart.org or 864-448-2790.