UNNATURAL CAUSES is inequality making us sick? HEALTH EQUITY research topics and resources to learn more
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  • What makes a neighborhood healthy — or sick?

    Explore five ways to turn this picture into a more healthy neighborhood.

    Click anywhere in the road to begin the journey

  • Low-income communities often need affordable housing, yet they are riddled with "brownfields" and blighted areas that are hard to develop. Peeling paint and dilapidated housing are linked to elevated lead exposure and asthma; abandoned properties encourage crime and unsanitary conditions.

    Click on the vacant lot to the right to see a transformation.

  • Many communities are developing innovative programs with renewed housing at their core. Neighborhood revitilization improves health by removing mold, mildew, vermin and toxins from built space, providing places for people to gather, exercise and play; and stimulating investment and economic growth.

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  • Low-income neighborhoods are dominated by liquor outlets and convenience stores, often lacking healthy food options. Nearly 80% of billboards in Black neighborhoods promote alchol and tobacco. Latino neighborhoods have 5 times as many alcohol billboards as those in white communities.

    Click the billboard or liquor store above to see a transformation.

  • Investing in schools means higher test scores and better health. Improving the physical, social and learning environment reduces illness, fosters achievement and builds community. It also means brighter job prospects, higher income and a longer life span for residents.

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  • Disinvestment in central cities has led to job loss and decline in urban areas. Many industrial facilities are abandoned or left to ruin, and a lack of public services like sidewalk maintenance and street light repair makes areas even less walkable and safe.

    Click the warehouses to see a transformation.

  • Commercial development is key for neighborhood revitilization, as long as it doesn't drive residents out. Appropriate development can provide support for local businesses, spur economic growth and jobs, increase access to healthy food options, enhance walkability and foster cohesion and social inclusion.

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  • Across the country, toxic and polluting industries are concentrated where the poor and people of color live. In 40 out of 44 states with hazardous waste facilities, people of color are disproportionately represented in "host" neighborhoods (within 3KM). Poverty rates are 1.5 times greater than in non-host areas. Environmental pollution is linked to high rates of cancer, asthma and other respiratory problems, and elevated lead levels.

    Click the petroleum pipeline to see a transformation.

  • Everyone deserves to live in a pleasant neighborhood with clean air. Although banning heavy industry isn't always the answer, organized community groups can work with local officials to ensure better oversight, testing and safety, and protocols for reporting accidents and notifying residents. Some have also negotiated agreements providing jobs to residents and funding to local schools and programs.

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  • After WW II, federal and state dollars built freeways connecting new suburbs to central business districts, but they destroyed many previously vibrant areas, primarily in Black communities. Neighborhoods located close to freeways are typically poor and have significantly higher rates of respiratory illness than the general population.

    Click the freeway to see a transformation.

  • Reliable, clean-fuel transportation options cut down on suburban sprawl, commute times and air pollution while promoting exercise and economic growth in close-in urban areas. Mixed-income development around transportation hubs may also help reduce segregation and restore tax dollars to central cities.

    Click here when you're ready to continue CONCLUSION

  • Poor neighborhoods are not neglected by acccident, and people of color do not cluster in low-income areas by choice. Residents of disadvantaged communities know what they need: improved physical conditions, better infrastructure and access to jobs, services, healthy food options and economic opportunities.

    But there's a fine line between uplift and gentrification Improving these environments requires the involvement of resident stakeholders as well as innovation and commitment from local officials, government agencies private investory and community advocates.

    Visit our Health Equity database to find resources related to this activity. REPLAY