The report, “Place Matters for Health in Baltimore: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All,” finds that residents’ place of residence is an important indicator of their health and health risks. Importantly, because of persistent racial and class segregation, place of residence is an especially important driver of the poorer health outcomes of the city’s non-white and low-income residents.
The report, prepared by the Joint Center and the Baltimore Place Matters team, Equity Matters, Inc., in conjunction with the Center for Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) of the National Institutes of Health. The study provides a comprehensive analysis of the range of social, economic, and environmental conditions in Baltimore—particularly as it relates to the quality of housing and educational opportunities—and documents their relationship to the health status of the city’s residents.
The study finds that social, economic, and environmental conditions in low-income and non-white neighborhoods make it more difficult for people in these neighborhoods to live healthy lives. Among the study’s key findings are that life expectancy in Baltimore varies by as much as 30 years depending on the census tract, and that census tracts with the lowest life expectancy tend to have a higher percentage of people of color and low-income residents. Community-level risk factors, such as poor quality housing and education, are among the factors that predict health inequalities in the city. Residents in census tracts characterized by a high density of liquor stores, vacant properties, rodent- or insect-infested homes, and lead exposure have an average life expectancy that is six to nine years shorter than residents of census tracts with the lowest rates of these characteristics. Similarly, residents in areas with a better educational environment—such as a greater percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree, lower school absenteeism rates, and fewer students scoring below basic proficiency levels—live nearly nine years longer than residents of neighborhoods with poorer educational environments.