It’s a quick drive up the Route 1 corridor from Trenton to Princeton, but when it comes to life-expectancy rates, the two communities are worlds apart.
People born and residing around the Princeton Junction train station can expect to see their 87th birthday, while children about 10 miles away, just south of the Trenton Train Station, are likely to only reach their 73rd birthday, on average. This reality was demonstrated visually in a new map released this week by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) depicting the life expectancy for residents in several zip codes across Mercer County.
Where we live affects our health and well-being far more than most realize. In each community, there are a number of contributing factors, including : access to quality education, well-paying jobs, nutritious foods, places for physical activity, quality healthcare, child care, and affordable safe housing.
The Trenton area offers a prime example of the health disparities that often exist between a largely affluent, suburban community and a generally low-income, urban area in geographic proximity.
Our best chance at closing the life expectancy gaps that this map identifies will come from a collaboration of all sectors—business, education, community organizations you name it—to help build a culture of health in Trenton.
At Isles, Inc., we are focused on fostering self-reliant families by providing GED, vocational and life skills education. We also provide healthy fresh produce through our support of over 700 gardeners at 70 community and school gardens, yielding tens of thousands of dollars worth of produce a year. Collaborating with funders, community groups, and public officials, we continue to plan and develop real estate projects, including affordable housing, open spaces, and community facilities, to promote a healthier lifestyle in the neighborhood.
A mere 10 miles should not add up to a 14-year difference in life expectancy. Our future, and the future of our children and their children depend on each of us doing our part to create a culture that is focused on equity in access to the key factors affecting the health and longevity of our families.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to helping people be as healthy as they can be. Each community must chart its own course. The health of a neighborhood is shaped by a web of factors, and everyone has a role to play—from residents to policymakers.
To view the Trenton/Greater Mercer County Life Expectancy Map visit societyhealth.vcu.edu/maps. Follow the discussion on Twitter at #CloseHealthGaps.