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New Measure, New Opportunity


Recently, County Health Rankings released new improvements, data changes, and new measures to assist community leaders and advocates in building a culture of health. A new measure included is racial residential segregation. Residential segregation is where two or more groups of people, categorized by race, ethnicity, income, etc., are spatially separated within a county, city, or neighborhood. Residential segregation has several dimensions and is commonly measured by the index of dissimilarity. This measures how two groups are either evenly or unevenly distributed across geographic areas such as census tracts. Over the last several decades, researchers have presented strong evidence that racial residential segregation affects the social and economic wellbeing of communities.

Residential segregation concentrates poverty, which promotes an environment of poor quality schools, deteriorated housing options, poor public services, crime, unemployment, lower educational attainment, and poor health outcomes. While those living in high poverty neighborhoods are disproportionately affected negatively, residential segregation also affects middle-class communities, specifically among African Americans. In more recent years, residential segregation has been connected to health outcomes. Although residential segregation may not be the primary cause of health disparities, such as low life expectancy and infant mortality, it is well established that residential segregation contributes to the social and economic infrastructure of communities. Residential segregation shapes how community members access goods, services, and opportunities within their community.

County Health Rankings recognizes the indirect relationship between residential segregation and health outcomes. As evidence of this connection provides additional insights, this illustrates that the advocacy community must consider this linkage. Residential segregation is a manifestation of institutional racism, which is shaped by housing policies and practices, both de jure and de facto. Voices for Healthy Kids seeks to chip away at institutional racism through the passage of key policies related to addressing the health of our children through equitable campaign processes and outcomes.

Understanding the role residential segregation plays in shaping neighborhoods will better position Voices for Healthy Kids in advancing policy change in historically marginalized communities. Campaigns addressing healthy food access, equitable transportation, targeted food marketing, early care and education standardshave the ability to make long lasting change that is addressing the infrastructure of communities.  These new insights will allow advocacy efforts to be more intentional about creating equitable and sustainable communities. This work is very important and requires advocates and leaders within this space to understand the root causes of health inequities and contribute to the growing body of research.

This measure is a great addition to County Health Rankings. Monitoring residential segregation across 3,143 counties across the U.S. makes room for a variety of advocates from different sectors to build a culture of health and work collaboratively to achieve equity. Join the movement and participate in local or state efforts towards redefining and reshaping your community. Utilize this new information and inform those within your sphere of influence on how factors like residential segregation  contribute to shaping our communities. Learn more about this new measure and new data insights at County Health Rankings