Palm Health Foundation’s summer intern, Teddy Kramer, has worked closely with our Director of Grants and Evaluation, Andy McAusland, on an in-depth data project around the social and environmental factors that are impacting our community’s health. We know that brain health is connected to the overall health of our bodies, and our overall health isn’t solely determined by our genetic background or medical predispositions. In fact, the neighborhood we live in has a greater impact on our health outcomes and life expectancy.
In order to address both our brain health and overall wellness, we must take a look at our neighborhoods – what do health opportunities look like across Palm Beach County? Andy and Teddy’s research helps answer that question. Their findings will help the foundation continue to make informed funding decisions to better health for all in Palm Beach County.
In 2018, researchers from Ohio State, Harvard, and Brown universities released the Child Opportunity Index and Opportunity Atlas projects. By compiling and analyzing data from the United States Census Bureau and IRS tax data, researchers of each respective project mapped the social determinants of health for every census tract in the United States. Census tracts are significantly smaller than zip code areas and roughly correspond to neighborhoods.
The Child Opportunity Index measures child opportunity across all neighborhoods using indicators relating to health access, quality of education, access to exercise and more. The Index then provides an overall opportunity level for every neighborhood in the country, and also assigns opportunity scores for multiple categories within each neighborhood. Once scores are assigned, each neighborhood is then listed as a “Very Low,” “Low,” “Moderate,” “High” or “Very High” opportunity area.
Similarly, the Opportunity Atlas also uses a wide variety of metrics to map opportunity outcomes by Census Tract. For example, using the Opportunity Atlas, you can view a neighborhood’s average household income, incarceration rate, percentage of the population with a college degree and much more.
Mapping the Data
At Palm Health Foundation, we have combined data from both of these indexes and used them to create a comprehensive view of the social determinants of health in Palm Beach County. Using the maps we have created, you can filter through multiple opportunity outcomes and see how each affects a neighborhood’s overall opportunity. You can also see how your neighborhood compares to others in your town or city. All of our maps will be available on Palm Health Foundation’s Healthier Together website in the fall of 2019.
Palm Health Foundation’s Findings
We have used our maps to take a deeper look at our community. Through analysis, we clearly see that children’s outcomes vary widely over short distances. Two children who live 2 miles away from each other in Palm Beach County might experience drastically different levels of opportunity. Similarly, neighborhoods that produce good outcomes for one race might not do the same for other races. We’ve also demonstrated that traditional indicators of economic success in a neighborhood, primarily job density and job growth, in fact do not directly translate to increased opportunity. The number of jobs in a neighborhood is significantly less influential than the number of people living in that neighborhood who are employed; the existence of many jobs doesn’t mean anything if local people aren’t filling them. Finally, we were able to show that certain neighborhood might have higher levels of opportunity than adjacent similarly-priced neighborhoods. In some cases, children can move and experience much better outcomes without their parents’ rent increasing. These are just some of the major findings illustrated by the index datasets.
Having compiled the data from these indexes and derived many intriguing results from them, our hope is that this data can better inform how Palm Health Foundation and other local non-profits utilize resources to the greatest effects. We can observe the social and economic circumstances all over Palm Beach County to see which areas require the most attention. By helping areas in need we can greatly improve the health of our residents.
Contributed by Teddy Kramer, Intern, Palm Health Foundation
Teddy is a Palm Beach County native. He went to school at St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton and is now a junior in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Teddy is majoring in International Economics and minoring in history and government. He decided to intern at Palm Health Foundation to gain new experience in a field he was previously unfamiliar with and to help make a difference.