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Can where you live affect your health?
Is it possible that a ZIP code may be as important as genetics in determining someone’s health?

Collaborating to look into the question that nationally is getting more and more attention, Iowa City and the University of Iowa in the US are examining three local neighborhoods in an effort to see if they can improve the health of those residents, thegazette.com wrote.

The research drew about 100 professionals — real estate agents, physicians, architects and others — to a UI symposium called ‘Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Communities’.

The symposium is part of the larger collaboration — the Invest Health Initiative.

The effort works to improve health problems like asthma and mental illness in three particular Iowa City neighborhoods, identifying what barriers keep their residents from improving their health. The UI and the city received a $60,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Reinvestment Fund to start work in 2016.

“The idea is that we were going to pull stakeholders together, and pull communities together, and develop a plan that included a pipeline of projects that we could then implement to improve health in specific neighborhoods,” said Vickie Miene, codirector of the project and interim director of the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy.

To choose the specific areas the initiative would study, those involved overlaid multiple maps showing poverty levels with various health statistics. Three neighborhoods stood out.

“They’ve got lower income, some vulnerable populations. They’re typically underserved,” Miene said.

The neighborhoods of emphasis are Pheasant Ridge, Town and Campus and Hilltop and Broadway. Three smaller neighborhoods inside those were surveyed on topics like barriers to health care, health conditions and feelings about their neighborhoods.

A total of 171 households returned surveys, representing 585 individuals. The results showed that 20 percent of respondents reported being diagnosed with asthma, while 51 percent said they were feeling ‘worry, sadness, anger fear or stress most days’.

Miene said the initial grant was spent on the survey and also travel so Invest Health members could learn from other communities. While some of the other 50 invest health communities around the country are ending their initiatives as the grants run out, Iowa City and the UI hope to find more funding opportunities to keep moving forward.

To improve the health of the neighborhoods’ residents, the Invest Health group has launched a health promotion campaign, called Seven Steps to a Healthy Home. The group also has begun other initiatives like a neighborhood connections program, which puts on community activities in the neighborhoods of focus, and a bicycle program for kids.

 

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