Life expectancy can vary dramatically by neighborhood in the Las Vegas Valley with a disparity of as much as 16 years in the nine miles that separate the Strip from Henderson, according to a map released Wednesday by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The university’s Center on Society and Health with money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created the map showing that residents in the 89183 ZIP code have a life expectancy of 87 years compared with people in 89109 who live on average to 71.
The 89183 ZIP code is northwest of the Henderson Executive Airport. The 89109 ZIP is east of Interstate 15 between Sahara and Tropicana avenues and includes the Las Vegas Country Club. That is a low-income area with a high number of transients and high crime rate.
The map is the latest in a series developed to raise public awareness of how health is shaped by social and environmental factors and to support the work of officials and community organizations to reduce health disparities.
Health differences between neighborhoods, research shows, are caused by a complex web of factors including opportunities for education and jobs, safe and affordable housing, availability of nutritious food and places for physical activity, clean air, and access to health care, child care, and social services.
“The health differences shown in these maps aren’t unique to one area. We see them in big cities, small towns, and rural areas across America,” said Derek Chapman, associate director for research at the Center on Society and Health. “Our goal is to help local officials, residents, and others understand that there’s more to health than health care and that improving health requires having a broad range of players at the table.”
One of the reasons the Las Vegas Valley was studied is because of the work of the Las Vegas Healthy Communities Coalition, which includes some 20 groups from the Southern Nevada Health District to Vegas PBS.
The coalition already is tackling many of the factors that influence life expectancy including education, health, the environment, public safety and workforce development. It coordinates and aligns efforts throughout Clark County to improve community outcomes for overall health. The work goes from “Cradle to Career” to provide high-quality services that include health, social and economic supports, said Terri Janison of the United Way of Southern Nevada.
“We know we cannot improve Southern Nevada’s conditions without a focus on these sectors,” Janison said. “If a community is doing well in these areas, the people in the community will live a better life.”
Coalition members look for ways to work smarter with research and data, share resources and communicate to the public that each of these areas is critical to their quality of life.
One example would be a grant from the foundation to improve early childhood education in Southern Nevada. The United Way works to eliminate barriers that Nevada families face in finding quality, affordable and accessible early childhood programs through a Tuition Assistance Preschool Scholarship Program.
“Research indicates when children’s needs are met during the first five years of development, the benefits last a lifetime,” Janison said. “The right start in life, through early childhood education, leads to better outcomes, increased rates of graduation, success into adulthood and improved health.”
Health district personnel worked in collaboration with the researchers at Virginia Commonwealth to confirm the data used for the ZIP code analysis, said Dr. Kenneth Osgood, a Las Vegas pediatrician and member of the Southern Nevada Board of Health. Such data is particularly beneficial to public health officials to improve the quality of life and increase the years of healthy life for all residents.
One emphasis of the health district has been to encourage people to walk, Osgood said, but the 89109 ZIP code lacks the walking paths and parks that are available to Henderson residents.
Some of the ZIP codes with higher life expectancy have high numbers of retirees who take more preventative care measures. Retirees have more time to walk and exercise, see their health care providers more regularly, and follow a healthier diet, said Dr. James Anthony, a Las Vegas family practitioner and member of the Nevada State Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
Lifestyle choices make a big difference in whether people stay healthy.
“It’s more than going to the doctor and taking your medications,” Anthony said. “It’s what you do when you leave the doctor that counts.”
Anthony was not surprised to hear the area around Sahara and the Strip would have the lowest life expectancy in Southern Nevada.
“That’s a pretty rough area so as a result, it skews the numbers,” Anthony said. “If you live in those tough neighborhoods, there’s people dying at a very young age.”
Contact Steven Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4563.