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Your Health Depends Largely On Neighborhood

May 12, 2015

Ana Diez Roux, MD

Lecture Highlights the Crucial Role of Environment on Human Health

Does where you live affect your health? A growing body of evidence says it matters enormously, according to Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Dean at the Drexel University School of Public Health.

In the second annual Renee Royak-Schaler Lecture in Health Disparities at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Diez Roux spoke on the topic in a talk entitled “Neighborhoods and Population Health: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?” Her lecture was sponsored by University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and took place on April 16 in Taylor Lecture Hall.

“Neighborhood has been shown to play a central role in a so many important health indicators,” said Dr. Diez Roux. She said there are sharp neighborhood, state and regional variations in rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and many other illnesses.

She noted that one key is diet, and pointed out that many Baltimore neighborhoods lack access to healthy food. These areas are known as food deserts, and residents often have trouble finding places other than corner stores or fast food restaurants when looking for food. She also mentioned that in Baltimore and many other cities, neighborhoods are not designed to encourage walking or exercise. Many residents feel unsafe, and thus tend to get much less exercise than people in other areas.

The processes by which this occurs is complex and multifactorial, she said. She and other researchers are trying to tease out the links between income, race, ethnicity, setting and health.

“This lecture illustrates the importance of context when we try to understand community health,” said Jay Magaziner, PhD, MS, Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. “This relationship is central to much of what we do. Dr. Diez Roux’s lecture was a powerful statement of this essential point.”

The lecture was underwritten with a generous donation from Magda Schaler-Haynes, JD, MPH, and Michael Haynes, and Jeffrey Schaler, PhD.

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