Message-from-the-director

Message from the director

As you already know, the Tulane Prevention Research Center’s main focus is the examination and modification of physical and social environmental factors that influence diet and physical activity. It has been clear to us for quite some time, that it is very difficult for residents to engage in healthy behaviors in neighborhoods that are food deserts (low to no access to healthy food items), in blighted neighborhoods, in high-crime neighborhoods, and in neighborhoods without safe outdoor play areas for children, adolescents and adults.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies of the Health Policy Institute (June, 2012) titled “Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All,” has described health inequities in Orleans Parish by racial, ethnic and social groups. This report verifies that “Place matters for health in important ways,” and goes on to stay that “Differences in neighborhood conditions powerfully predict who is healthy, who is sick, and who lives longer.” This is an incredibly significant statement and one that every community stakeholder, every professional, every government employee, and every individual who has any influence on policy at the local and state level should take to heart and act upon. I highly recommend reading this report, which can be found online at www.jointcenter.org or by clicking here to download the report.

A few of the findings for the poorest zip code in the city follows:
  • Life expectancy is 25.5 years lower than the zip code with the least amount of poverty;
  • Heart disease mortality is almost five times higher than the next highest rate;
  • Mortality rate for black residents in Orleans Parish in 2007 was 1.5 times higher than for whites;
  • A community-level risk index that combines measures of population below 150% of the Federal poverty level, overcrowded households, households without a vehicle, and vacant housing, shows that the communities with the highest risk indices have higher heart disease and stroke mortality, the highest risk indices correlate with lowest levels of education; and finally
  • Higher violent crime rates are associated with areas that have lower education levels and higher repopulation since Hurricane Katrina.

The summation of all of this is that “socioeconomic conditions in low-income and non-white neighborhoods make it more difficult for people in these communities to live healthy lives.” The report continues with recommendations for: keeping students in school; providing opportunities for those who have been incarcerated; addressing mental health needs of youth and families; and developing a student-centered focus and policies. To educate our youth is to help eliminate these horrible disparities and create an environment for growth and health.

Dr. Carolyn Johnson, PhD
Director, Tulane Prevention Research Center

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