Your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code when it comes to your health.

Wednesday, the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln released six maps highlighting that point -- and then asked the approximately 100-plus civic and health leaders attending its annual meeting: What are we going to do about it?

The maps, featured in CHE’s annual report “Place Matters,” highlight striking disparities in Lincoln when it comes to health, behaviors, education and longevity.

A person living in southeast Lincoln has an average life expectancy of 91.2 years, almost three decades longer than a person living in the city’s core, and 15 years longer than a person living in northeast Lincoln.

Map out poverty rates, access to health care, child obesity and crime, and the maps closely align -- the poorer your neighborhood, the worse off you are. And maps comparing poverty rates in 1980 to 2009-13 indicate poverty is not only increasing in the city, but spreading north, west and southwest.

“Poverty is not only in your neighborhood, it could be your neighbor,” Lori Seibel, president and CEO of Community Health Endowment, said.

And poverty is not just about money. Poverty affects every aspect of a person’s health, physically, mentally and socially, Seibel said.

“Health goes beyond health care,” she said.

Health is personal and public, it is urban revitalization and community development, said keynote speaker David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, Calif.

A leader in a movement to improve communities in order to eliminate health disparities, Erickson stressed the need for communities to break through barriers and find collaborative, place-based ways to improve the health of impoverished neighborhoods by providing safe streets, healthy homes, education, employment and opportunities.

“We have the ideas and the resources to do it,” Erickson said. "But do we have the will and the business model to do it?"

He pointed to a graphic showing the leading indicators of premature death. Health care accounts for just 10 percent. The biggest indicator is behavior, at 40 percent. Social circumstances and genetics each account for 15 percent.

“And even genetics are influenced by our environment,” Erickson said. "Your neighborhood is what makes you healthy."

Or not.

He highlighted various efforts across the U.S.: healthy air housing to reduce asthma rates, which are highest among the poor; economic development through investments by people living in the neighborhood and organizations; and livability.

“We’re winning battles, but losing the war,” Erickson. “We are not moving the needle on poverty.”

The answer is understanding that community development is health -- and that true health is impossible as long as poverty continues to exist.

“Integration is the key -- getting people to work together,” Erickson said.

The Place Matters report will be available soon at

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7217 or On Twitter @LJSerinandersen.


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