Neighborhood Matters: Your ZIP Code And Your Health

Saturday, March 11, 2017
Health Care

Neighbors Unite To Fight The ZIP Code Curse

There’s a direct link between where we live and our health. In fact, many studies have found ZIP code is a better predictor of physical and mental health, quality of life and life expectancy than even DNA. The reason?  Access – to clean air and water, transportation, education, safe housing and jobs. Living in a walkable neighborhood with sidewalks and public parks also makes a big difference. So does race.

These so-called “social determinants of health” mean Americans who live just a few miles apart may face dramatically different health outcomes during their lifetimes. "In some cases, life expectancy can differ by as much as 20 years in neighborhoods only about five miles apart from one another,” according to research from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health

On this episode of TruckBeat, the team heads to neighborhoods north and east of downtown Knoxville to learn more about how ZIP code impacts health and well-being. We learn about an effort by East Knoxville organization Five Points Up to understand and combat the forces that drive the neighborhood’s health disparities. And we meet a group of women in the Parkridge neighborhood that’s determined to beat the ZIP code odds.  

Listen to the story:


More about health disparities:

According to the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, there are many complex factors that combine to determine why some neighborhoods are healthier than others, even within the same city or county.  

From the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health:

"Education and income are directly linked to health:  Communities with weak tax bases cannot support high-quality schools and jobs are often scarce in neighborhoods with struggling economies.
Unsafe or unhealthy housing exposes residents to allergens and other hazards like overcrowding. Stores and restaurants selling unhealthy food may outnumber markets with fresh produce or restaurants with nutritious food.
Opportunities for residents to exercise, walk, or cycle may be limited, and some neighborhoods are unsafe for children to play outside.
Proximity to highways, factories, or other sources of toxic agents may expose residents to pollutants.
Access to primary care doctors and good hospitals may be limited.
Unreliable or expensive public transit can isolate residents from good jobs, health and child care, and social services.
Residential segregation and features that isolate communities (e.g., highways) can limit social cohesion, stifle economic growth, and perpetuate cycles of poverty."

Learn more about how ZIP code impacts health from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health's amazing life-expectancy maps.

East Knoxville kids work to make their neighborhood healthier:


 TruckBeat is #FindingAmerica.

Jess Mador

Jess Mador is the creator of TruckBeat for WUOT. She's an award-winning public radio and multimedia journalist who has produced stories for news organizations around the country, including Minnesota Public Radio, NPR News and PBS member stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Leslie Snow

Leslie Snow is a freelance producer for WUOT. She has a master’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. Leslie has been working on special projects for WUOT since 2010. She also writes a weekly column for the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper. She has large dogs, small cats and medium-sized kids.

Don't Miss A Beat!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form