Place Indicators:

Parks & Trails Access to Healthy Food Transportation Modes Health/Income Relationship

Here we consider the region’s many environmental factors—from clean air to concentrated poverty to green space to fresh food sources—that impact community health. These indicators, like the people they represent, do not exist in a vacuum; they live in particular places that influence health. The demographic factors and behavioral variations apparent in the health data are driven in part by the environment in which people live.

Concentrated poverty is an overarching concern in the region because it is increasing over time and is associated with significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates for many diseases. The burdens faced by people living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty include lack of access to green space and grocery stores and overexposure to pollution. These factors may limit the residents’ ability to engage in healthy behaviors like exercise and healthy eating, which adversely impacts their health. Recent efforts to establish community gardens in lower income neighborhoods show promise. Efforts to improve population health must account for the many environmental factors that may promote or work against better health.

Indicators of place include the associated risk of mortality by concentration of poverty, biking and walking as a transportation mode, and access to supermarkets. The good news is that in the last decade workers are commuting by bike or foot in much greater proportions. In terms of access to healthy food, Houston has fewer supermarkets per capita than most of the nation’s large metropolitan areas. This disproportionately affects lower-income and rural families who must travel greater distances to have access to healthy food (Manon, Giang, & Treering, 2010).