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Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Boston Announces Health Initiative, $10M Grant to Improve Life Expectancy

By meerna Jul11,2024
Boston Announces Health Initiative, M Grant to Improve Life Expectancy

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, speaks as Mayor Michelle Wu announces a new, long-term health equity agenda. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Public Health Commission announced that Boston will launch a new health equity initiative aimed at improving and closing the disparities in life expectancy in the city.

“Boston is a city rich in high-quality health care resources,” said Public Health Commissioner Bisola Ojikutu. “Yet we have long-standing gaps in life expectancy and other health outcomes by race, ethnicity and neighborhood. To close these gaps, we must focus on the drivers of poor health that exist outside the walls of health care institutions, such as poverty and economic inequality.”

City officials announced the launch of Live Long and Well at a news conference at the Vine Street Community Center in Roxbury. The program, which will be launched with $10 million in funding from the Atrius Health Equity Foundation, will facilitate community partnerships and focus on the three leading causes of premature mortality in Boston: cardiometabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease; breast, cervical, colon, prostate and lung cancers; and drug overdoses.

As speakers noted, while life expectancy in Boston has risen to 82 years since the pandemic and remains high nationally, significant disparities remain.

The BPHC Health of Boston 2023 report found that the average life expectancy in Roxbury’s Nubian Square neighborhood is 69. Two miles away in Back Bay, the average life expectancy jumps to 92, an increase of 23 years.

“The difference between Back Bay and Roxbury is not just distance — it’s income, it’s parks and green space, it’s access to healthy, affordable food, education and opportunity,” Wu said. “And so our health equity program is designed to directly address those gaps and build on all the work that’s already happening in the community, in every department in the city, in every neighborhood throughout Boston.”

The same 2023 report found that Boston’s racial gap in life expectancy has widened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic in 2019, black Bostonians lived an average of 77 years, four years less than white residents. In 2023, black residents lived an average of 76 years, six years less than white residents.

When it comes to cardiometabolic disease, black residents were 220% more likely to die from diabetes than white residents, according to the Health of Boston 2023 report, and 37% more likely to die from heart disease. Hispanic residents were 80% more likely to die from diabetes than white residents.

The city said $10 million from the Atrius Health Equity Foundation will support “community-led coalitions to improve financial well-being in communities with poor cardiometabolic health outcomes” as part of a strategy developed by the Boston Community Health Collaborative.

By meerna

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