How healthy is your neighborhood? New online tool to show U.S. health disparities

The Northeast Healthy Equity Consortium unveiled a prototype of its Health Disparities Dashboard at a meeting in Old Saybrook, Conn., on Oct. 18.

Developed in a partnership with Velir, a web technology firm based in Somerville, Mass., the dashboard features an online map of the United States that provides a snapshot of health disparities in the country’s 500 largest cities. In each city, users can view a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of various health measures, including blood pressure, smoking rates, and cholesterol.

The map reveals that the health and wellbeing of much of the nation is determined by where people live. Neighborhoods that lack access to healthcare, healthy food, and physical activity opportunities, routinely show poor health outcomes.

In Boston, for example, the map shows that people living in the city’s most at-risk communities, such as Roxbury and Mattapan, are more than four times as likely to have high blood pressure than healthier sections of the city. They are also three times less likely to be taking medication to control their high blood pressure. In Syracuse, New York, some neighborhoods are more than two times less likely to get an adequate amount of physical activity than other sections of the city. And in Elizabeth, N.J., people in the most at-risk communities are 10 percent more likely to experience diabetes, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The consortium will develop recommendations based on the results measured in the Health Disparities Dashboard, with the goal of implementing the recommendations and assessing their impact. “One of the most important things we can do as an organization is to weave this health equity work through everything we do,” said Heather Kinder, the American Heart Association Founders Affiliate executive vice president, at the consortium’s October meeting.

The meeting was led by Benjamin Perkins, the vice president of multicultural initiatives and health equity for the AHA Founder Affiliate. It also featured remarks from the consortium’s newly appointed co-chairs – Raheem Baraka, founder and executive director of Baraka Community Wellness in Boston; Chien-Chi Huang, executive director of Asian Women for Health in Boston; and Dr. Lenny Lopez, senior faculty at the Disparities Solutions Center, chief of hospital medicine and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The AHA Founders Affiliate established the Northeast Health Equity Consortium in 2016 through the efforts of numerous volunteers and the generous support of Aetna, a Hartford, Connecticut-based insurer. The consortium aims to address health disparities in cardiovascular diseases related to the social determinants of health, such as poverty, education, housing, public safety and other environmental factors.

The consortium’s first annual Health Equity Summit will take place next June in Hartford. For more information, visit

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