The End Of The Line

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 23 2013 @ 6:14pm


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation mapped life expectancy by subway public transit stop in five parts of the country (the above map depicts New Orleans), revealing health disparities:

“The maps are meant to show that this is a pervasive problem,” says director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, Steve Woolf, whose research has produced a number of similar maps independently. “You can do this in any American city–and many cities have done this and found the same pattern.”

The pattern mimics much of the disparities we see across social and economic inequalities–in areas with less access to educational resources, or decreased availability of safe areas to play or work out, lifespans tend to be shorter. Poverty, the proximity of highways and air filled with diesel fumes, and food deserts are also linked to poor health. Woolf points out that the maps are meant to demonstrate that environmental factors can have a bigger impact on our health outcomes than what happens inside a doctor’s office.

Update from a reader:

Just to be a nitpicky jerk, New Orleans does not have a subway system. We’ve got streetcars for the tourists, and buses for poor people. Also, that’s the least comprehensible map of New Orleans I’ve ever seen. I’ve lived and worked in the city for about 15 years, and I am having a hell of a time telling where those markers actually are. But yeah, the city certainly has a huge variety of economic disparity and no doubt huge amounts of health disparity follow that. Either way, with the huge amount of undoubtedly unhealthy but amazingly delicious food that this town offers; I’m surprised anybody here makes it past 60 before their heart gives up.