Understanding the social determinants of health—the ways individual health is linked to neighborhood conditions, location, and socioeconomic factors—is central to the purpose of the 500 Cities Project and is crucial in a state so often marked by inequities.
To analyze these disparities, we split these eight Connecticut cities into higher-need census tracts—denser areas with higher poverty rates and lower household incomes—and lower-need tracts—those less densely populated and economically better off. We see a familiar pattern of better results in wealthier areas, and health problems concentrated in lower-income areas. For instance, there is a 12 point gap in the rates of health insurance coverage among working-age adults between these two areas, and a 15 point gap in rates of recent dental visits. Higher-need tracts also have more variation on many measures, such that those tracts are more likely to stray toward greater extremes.
We also looked at the data from the 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey with areas split into these same two groups. In addition to measures of public health and behavior, the survey asked questions about overall well-being, such as how responsive participants feel their local government is, trust in police, how easily they think residents in their area can get a job, and rates of food insecurity.
As reported in more detail in the New Haven Independent last year, differences across these areas appear within New Haven: there are 11 percentage point gaps, for example, both in the share of adults who report trusting police, and in the share who feels local government is responsive to their needs, even though they are served by the same police department and city hall. In both the direct interviews as well as the statistically modeled estimates, the percentage of adults who do not have access to regular dental care ranges from about 20% of adults in Westville and East Rock to about 50% of adults in the Hill.
Behind these data points are people’s lives and experiences. Linking public health data with data on community well-being can help us add nuance to the stories we tell about disparities, and paint a more robust picture of the health of our residents and their neighborhoods.
Camille Seaberry is research associate and Mark Abraham is executive director at DataHaven, a formal partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership with a 25-year history of public service to Greater New Haven and Connecticut. DataHaven’s mission is to improve quality of life by collecting, sharing and interpreting public data for effective decision making.