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Health Equity

Health Equity in BoulderSocial Determinants of Health

Is it possible your ZIP Code could have a greater impact on your health and life expectancy than your genetic code? Recent research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment suggest it does.

In fact, an October 2016 report, issued by non-profit Aurora Health Access, indicates as little as a mile can have a significant impact on life expectancy. According to the report, the life expectancy at birth ranges from 66 years (in ZIP Codes 80012 and 80047) to 84 years (in nearby 80019) within the City of Aurora.

But why? Analysis reveals opportunities and resources in a given area have a great impact on the people living there: their choices, behaviors and stress levels – and these factors significantly affect health.

For example, health outcomes will vary between ZIP Codes if one has access to healthy and diverse food options and another does not. Access to resources such as parks, schools, transportation and medical care also impact life expectancy. Determinants of health such as income, education, and race are the focus of work by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Office of Health Equity, The Colorado Trust and Boulder County Public Health. These efforts seek to eliminate or reduce the avoidable, detrimental and often unfair health consequences of these determinants.

The US Center for Disease Control offers this definition: “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’"

From a distance, Boulder looks like the healthiest and wealthiest community along the Front Range (if not the state or country). Yet on closer inspection, significant housing, income and resource access disparities exist within our community.

The City of Boulder strives to narrow differences between the community’s greater- and lesser-resourced neighborhoods by eliminating obstacles to achieving optimal health. This means removing potential hurdles and supporting active living by creating unparalleled access to quality parks, multi-use paths, and abundant open space to all neighborhoods. It means implementing a livable wage standard for all city employees. And it means providing more than 1,000 youth, adults and seniors need-based scholarships and reduced-rate access to safe, effective fitness programs and facilities.

Finally, Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department provides programs for youth from economically-challenged families aimed at reducing the types of disparities that can lead to unfavorable health outcomes.

Creating equitable access to healthy eating and active living is at the core of our mission to promote the health and well-being of the entire Boulder community.