Interactive Map Shows How Healthy (or Unhealthy) Your Neighborhood Is

A screenshot of Oakland’s physical activity, by census tract. Image: CDC

In my particular Oakland neighborhood, not that many people smoke or binge drink (about 13%) and a lot of us exercise (about 80%). Not bad. We’re even doing a tad better than the city of Oakland overall, where 14% of people binge drink, nearly 16% smoke and closer to 75% of people regularly engage in physical activity. People of downtown Oakland, give yourselves a mildly enthusiastic pat on the back.

All this is according to a new interactive map from the Centers for Disease Control’s 500 Cities Project, which looks at smoking rates, obesity prevalence, and binge drinking habits, in addition to insurance rates and other health risk factors, across 500 of America’s largest cities. The project uses statistical modeling and data from the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey to look at 27 chronic disease measures on a local level.


The hope is to allow public health officials to better target resources at communities that need them. Using the data, for example, the town of Brockton, Mass. was able to determine that prevalent health conditions like asthma, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol were not due to unhealthy behaviors, and instead focus on other potential causes, like neighborhood safety and a local lack of fresh, nutritious food.

In Oakland, I was able to clearly see how socioeconomic conditions impact health. Take dental visits. In a more mid-income neighborhood like mine, somewhere around half the people went to the dentist in the past year. But in neighborhood in Oakland Hills, which is wealthier, more than 75% of people made regular trips to the dentist. In less wealthy neighborhoods, like West and East Oakland, those numbers dipped to around 40%.

A screenshot of visits to the dentist by neighborhood in Oakland. Dark blue is most regular visits. Image: CDC

Ditto for health insurance, where the Oakland Hills were much less likely to be uninsured.

A screenshot of insurance coverage neighborhood in Oakland. Yellow is the highest rate of insured. Image: CDC

There were also more surprsing trends. In East Oakland, a few square blocks along the 580 freeway had significantly higher blood pressure than the surrounding areas, some of which had the lowest rates. That area also had lower incidents of binge drinking and smoking.


In San Francisco, meanwhile, there was a prevalence of binge drinking in the Marina District, which, for those familiar with the area, might not come as a surprise. But the data also highlighted a pocket of the Fillmore district where far fewer people seemed to be exercising, high rates of heart disease in one particular sliver of the Mission, and high blood pressure around UCSF—curious trends that public health officials might want to look into.

Blood pressure by neighborhood in San Francisco. Deep red pockets are where it’s high. Image: CDC

Check out the site for a look at how healthy your neighborhood is.

[The 500 Cities Project]


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