- Geographical disparities in health are costing the US up to $309 billion annually, with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and heart disease disproportionately impacting underserved communities, Aetna Foundation officials note in a recent Health Affairs blog post.
- "A person’s ZIP code is a stronger predictor of his or her overall health than other factors, including race and genetics," the authors write.
- Given that some U.S. states have lower premature death rates for certain causes than others, the authors suggest lessons can be learned through the sharing of data. "If all states were to achieve the lowest observed mortality levels for the top five causes of premature death (for age < 80 years), we could prevent more than 250,000 premature deaths in America every year," the authors write.
Data can help researchers answer questions around what strategies to employ to lower premature death rates, and whether even the lowest observed rates can yet be improved, Aetna Foundation authors Garth Graham, MaryLynn Ostrowski and Alyse Sabina write.
They argue that since there are so many factors involved in health outcomes, the factors must be studied at the community level through the gathering of behavioral and social data to effect policy changes.
"The need to collect data is being recognized, and forward-looking organizations are taking action," they note, citing the example of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers in Camden, N.J. which is working to integrate health data with social data.
At the same time, the authors argue for health-related education and assistance to underserved populations through mobile technology, noting that 84% of low-income adults have access to a mobile phone.