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Health equity: There’s nothing left to do but act

The Coalition for a Livable Future’s annual Regional Livability Summit drew a record 400 attendees Friday to the ballroom at Portland State’s Smith Memorial Student Union.

Plenty of them were policy wonks, some were academics, others activists. The unifying theme in the room was a desire to improve the greater Portland community.

The coalition’s slick data driven mapping tool, the Equity Atlas 2.0, puts the region’s inequality in sharp relief. Obesity rates, access to healthy lifestyle choices, income disparities, education—factors like these, 42 in all, are linked, and the Equity Atlas maps are handy illustrations. A map of body mass index correlates with a map of income that correlates with a map of access to healthy food. Lower income rates? Higher rates of chronic disease.

The access to information about cause and effect is dizzying and it prompted the summit’s keynote speaker, Dr. Adewale Troutman, to say: “We have all the data. There’s nothing left to do but act.”

Health equity requires a shift in how we frame health care, says Troutman, a physician and professor who leads the American Public Health Association. Transportation, housing and access—these are all key ingredients to health.

“The number one risk factor for your health is your zip code,” he said.

These social determinants of health, a key sustainability research focus at PSU, are now well understood. And the topic of equity is getting a fair amount of airtime around Portland. It’s a key theme in next week’s business-facing GoGreen Portland conference, and CLF supports a number of equity efforts around the region.

So what’s missing?

Troutman’s challenge to summit attendees was a simple one: “Build a movement.”