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Why neighbors in one part of Richmond live 20 years longer than those just 5 miles away

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The five and a half miles that separate Richmond's Westover Hills and Gilpin neighborhoods may not take long to drive, but will, according to researchers, take years off of your life. The life expectancy of people who call those neighborhoods home differ by 20 years, according to research recently released by the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health. Using census data, researchers created a map that illustrated how life expectancy can "vary dramatically" in Richmond based on where you live.

Babies born within five miles of downtown Richmond face up to a  20-year difference in life expectancy

Babies born within five miles of downtown Richmond face up to a
20-year difference in life expectancy

No one thing is to blame for the life expectancy gap between neighborhoods, researchers found. Factors that do play a role include:

  • Education
  • Job availability
  • Safe and affordable housing
  • Availability of nutritious food
  • Availability for physical activity
  • Clean air
  • Access to health care
  • Access to child care
  • Access to social services

"The health differences shown in these maps aren’t unique to one area. We see them in big cities, small towns and rural areas across America," Derek Chapman, Ph.D., associate director for research, VCU Center on Society and Health, said. "Our goal is to help local officials, residents and others understand that there’s more to health than health care and that improving health requires having a broad range of players at the table."

VCU hopes their maps serve as a "conversation starter to support the work of local officials and community organizations looking to address these factors in order to improve, maintain and reclaim their community’s health."

"To build a culture of health we must build a society where everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, has the opportunity to lead a fulfilling, productive and healthy life,” RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., said. "There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each community must chart its own course and everyone has a role to play for better health in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their schools and in their towns."