Health is about more than what happens in a doctor's office or a hospital room. Health allows us to engage fully in the activities of our daily lives and to make meaningful contributions to our communities. It is fundamental to human well-being, but it is not equally distributed across our community.
Since March of 2013, scholars from Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University have been exploring how this unequal distribution of health in the St. Louis region is related to what are called social determinants of health -- factors like education, income, the quality and composition of neighborhoods, and access to community resources like healthy foods and safe public spaces.
African American health and well-being has been at the center of this work because of the particular history and demographic make-up of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County which make up the project's targeted geographic area. Differences in social and economic factors by race play a significant role in explaining the differences in health.
There are very real ways in which these differences in health and life outcomes affect everyone in the St. Louis region Of course, the most important and immediate impact is the loss of our neighbors, co-workers, family, friends -- our fellow St. Louisans -- to early deaths that could have been prevented. The economic costs of that loss of life are staggering as well. In one year alone, the loss of life associated with low levels of education and poverty among African Americans was estimated at $3.3 billion.