Written by: Nicole M. Augustine, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
It's no secret that where you live has a significant impact on your quality of life. But what you may not know is that your zip code can also have a massive impact on your health and wellness. Certain neighborhoods have more access to healthy food options, exercise facilities, and doctor's offices than others. This can lead to disparities in health outcomes and opportunities across different zip codes. In this article, we will explore how neighborhoods impact health and wellness and discuss some of the ways that we can address these disparities.
Take a moment to reflect on a thriving community environment. Think of the neighborhood, the schools, parks, grocery stores, and the physical built environment. Think of all the ways a person's health and well-being is nurtured by living in an environment with high protective factors and an abundance of assets. Now imagine the environment of those community members who are suffering from disparities and social inequalities. Imagine how the neighborhood looks, the schools, parks, grocery stores, and the physical built environment. Can you see how different the environment looks for these two communities? If this is a foreign concept to you, take a drive to the "other" side of town, and you will immediately see the difference (no matter which "side" of town you live on).
The built environment is the physical spaces where we live, work, and play. It includes everything from our homes and workplaces to our schools, parks, and playgrounds. The quality of our built environment plays a significant role in our health and wellbeing. For example, access to healthy food options, quality schools, and safe parks can help encourage physical activity and promote healthy eating habits. Similarly, access to healthcare and social activities can help improve mental health and social cohesion. By improving the quality of our built environment, we can create healthier and more sustainable communities for everyone. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, we must consider the social inequities that determine the quality of our built environment. Low-income neighborhoods are often disproportionately burdened by poor environmental conditions. A lack of investment in these communities can lead to substandard housing, lack of access to healthy food options, and inadequate infrastructure. This can create a cycle of poverty and ill-health that is difficult to break.
So, what can we do to improve the quality of our built environment and promote health equity? We must start by addressing the social determinants of health. We must acknowledge that where we live matters –our zip code should not determine our health or opportunity. We must invest in low-income neighborhoods and provide residents with the resources needed to balance the scales. Only then can we create healthier, more sustainable communities for everyone.
It's time for us to come together and create a more equitable society – one in which everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter their zip code. In the United States, where zip codes can determine life expectancy, it's clear that we have a long way to go to create a more equitable society. While some have the opportunity to lead healthy lives, others are struggling to get by. This is unacceptable. We also need to address the underlying causes of poor health, such as poverty and racism. Only then will we be able to create a society in which everyone can live their best life. Let's come together and make this a reality. It's time for us to come together and fight for a society in which everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter their zip code.
Check out this short YouTube clip summarizing the ideas in this article.
Nicole M. Augustine, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Nicole M. Augustine is a social entrepreneur, public health professional, and social justice advocate. She was born in Inglewood, CA, in the early 80s during the decade in America known for the "crack epidemic ." This was her first experience with social injustice, racial inequality, and the roots of trauma that plague many people. Her tale is one of resilience and opportunity, as her grandmother relocated the family to moved Edmond, OK in the early 90s. After experiencing the stark contrast of both living environments, she became intrigued by the core reasons for differences in community outcomes. Nicole found herself studying sociology and public health and was drawn to understanding the root causes of health disparities. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Cornell University and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University School of Public Health. Throughout her career in public health, she has focused her work on understanding health disparities and social inequality. Her personal life mission is to drive community and societal change while creating generational shifts in community wellness outcomes.