Risa Lavizzo-Mourey on health inequality

A person’s zip code should not determine the length and quality of his or her life, explains Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: Inequality is when your zip code is as important as your genetic code in predicting how long and how well you’re going to live.

[Inequality is logo. A graphic black equal sign with an orange slash through it. #InequalityIs. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, former president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A Black woman with short curly hair wearing a multicolored scarf.]

In 1966 Martin Luther King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, inequality in health is the most inhumane and shocking of all.” We often think of health as just being the absence of illness. But, in fact, health is everything. It’s how we’re prosperous as a nation. It’s how we care for our families, how we teach our children, how we build our communities. How healthy someone is depends on their whole environment. Our zip code says so much about the immediate environment in which we live. It is often a lens into housing, education, access to health care services, access to healthy foods. A zip code is not supposed to be about that kind of lens. So we have to change that if we’re going to make the zip code about getting mail to people and not about predicting how long they’re going to live. Without health we will not have equity.

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