Sun Investigates

City health data illustrates chasm between rich and poor neighborhoods

Baltimore health officials have been staring at a daunting statistic for years: life expectancy in the richest neighborhoods is 20 years longer than in the poorest ones.

But a plan unveiled recently aims to battle the intractable health problems causing the gap, including high rates of HIV infection, heart disease and violence.  An interactive map created by The Baltimore Sun using city data illustrates many of the stark differences between city neighborhoods:

  • The median income for Roland Park is 90,000 while in Upton it is 13,000.
  • In the wealthiest parts of the city, people are dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and injury.
  • In the poorest parts of the city, people are dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS and homicide.
  • Life expectancy also follows these trends.  Life expectancy in Roland Park is 20 years higher than in Upton.

Called Healthy Baltimore 2015, the city's plan targets the city's top 10 ailments. And it maps out for the first time specific and comprehensive goals such as cutting smoking rates by 20 percent and the number of obese adults by 15 percent.

There are no special funds dedicated to the cause but city agencies have all been directed to do their part, such as improving lighting in parks so residents feel safe going for a walk or luring fresh produce vendors so healthy food is more available.

In addition, officials have been engaging residents, as well as businesses, faith groups, hospitals and others, in the process. Each community has been given their specific data and residents have been instructed to choose problems on which to focus.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, city health commissioner, said the progress will be documented every few years. The goal is to improve the statistics by 10 percent to 25 percent by 2015.