Inequality makes staying healthy harder for many communities

Where you live, learn, work and play all have a huge impact on your health. Not everyone has a fair opportunity, and in Hillsborough County, there are some groups of people whose wellbeing is lacking.

Your health is more than genetics, and more than the choices you make. The biggest impact comes from your environment, and if those conditions give you options or obstacles. This means that our housing, income, education, and access to resources like healthcare, parks, transportation, and nutritious food have a big impact on whether or not you can achieve good health.

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County just released it’s first-ever Health Equity Profile highlighting the differences that exist among residents.

“When we see higher rates of death from diabetes in our Black residents, that’s nothing biological that’s something that’s based on the conditions in their life,” said Grace Liggett with the Department of Health Hillsborough County Office of Health Equity.

The report says those disparities are avoidable, unfair, and unjust; existing because of current and historical discrimination against groups of people.

“We found overall that Black and Hispanic residents, those with low income, women, and people with disabilities were the groups who most often faced the most significant barriers to health,” Liggett said.

Compared to white residents, the report found Black and Hispanic residents are almost twice as likely to be food insecure, are more likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhood, and are less likely to have a primary care doctor and receive preventative care.

“And so you can see how all of these different social factors would then combine to produce different health results,” said Liggett.

Many times, those inequities lead to worse health outcomes, like higher rates of disease and infant death.

People need a good foundation with places to exercise, affordable housing, and nutritious food options to make healthy choices. In Hillsborough, the Office of Health Equity is working to make policy, system, and environmental changes to help improve the community.

“Our goal is for health equity exist, which is where all people have a fair opportunity to be healthy,” Liggett said.

The Health Equity Profile breaks down specifically what is being done in the county to make good health an option for everyone, as well as ways you can get involved.