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Press Release

Health Inequities In The Twin Cities

An Update to the Report “The Unequal Distribution of Health in the Twin Cities”

June 18, 2012

ST. PAUL – A report released today by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and Wilder Research finds that overall life expectancy in the Twin Cities has increased in the past decade. However, average life expectancy in the least affluent neighborhoods is more than seven years less than in the most affluent neighborhoods.

“At the Blue Cross Foundation, we believe that all Minnesotans should have a fair chance to live a long, healthy life, regardless of their income, education, geographic location or ethnic background,” said Stacey Millett, senior program officer.

The study analyzed the most recent health data available, organized by U.S. Census tract, to determine the relationship between several socioeconomic factors and health.

The findings include:

  • Overall, Twin Cities residents are living longer. Average life expectancy in the region is 81 years, compared with a national average of 76.5 years. This is an increase of 1.5 years between 2000 and 2007.
  • Average life expectancy is 84 years in the region’s highest-income neighborhoods compared to 76 years in the lowest-income neighborhoods. 
  • Between 2000 and 2007, the gap in life expectancy rates among residents living in neighborhoods with the highest and lowest concentrations of poverty narrowed from 8 years to 6.6 years.
  • Age-adjusted mortality rates improved among all racial/ethnic groups except for U.S.-born African American residents. Mortality rates decreased as much as 47 percent among foreign-born African American residents, compared to a slight increase of 3 percent among U.S.-born African American residents.
  • Mortality rates among American Indian and U.S.-born African American residents remain notably higher (3 – 3.5 times) than the regional average.

“Our analysis found that there continue to be strong relationships between socioeconomic status, race and health. While the study suggests that health inequities may be narrowing in our region, it is a snapshot comparing two points in time and may not reflect larger trends. In addition, we do not know how future health outcomes may be impacted by the recent economic downturn,” said Melanie Ferris research scientist and author of the report.

Worsening socioeconomic conditions identified in the study include:

  • The percentage of residents living below the poverty level ($22,113 for a family of four) increased from 7 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2010.
  • In 2010, the average median household income in the Twin Cities region was $62,000, a decrease of nearly $9,000 since 2000.
  • In 2010, over one-third of households were housing cost-burdened compared with 24 percent in 2000.
  • 74 percent of residents were employed in 2010 compared with 80 percent in 2000.

 New research included in the report looks at socioeconomic differences in access to healthy foods, opportunities for physical activity and social connectedness. Key findings include:

  • Since 2008, annual visits to Twin Cities food shelves increased over 30 percent to more than 1.5 million.
  • Social connectedness affects health directly and indirectly. The study found that while many Minnesotans feel connected in their communities, disparities exist based on socioeconomic position.

In November 2011, the Foundation added a full-time position dedicated to health equity programming, with four funding opportunities to be announced yet this year. Additionally, the Foundation is co-funding a study with The McKnight Foundation to obtain statewide data on life expectancy and mortality with a goal of developing recommendations for the state and region.

For more information on Blue Cross Foundation efforts to reduce health inequities or to view the full report, visit www.bcbsmnfoundation.org.

About Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
For more than 100 years, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation has combined direct service, research and community development to address the needs of the most vulnerable people in greater St. Paul. For more information on the Wilder Foundation, visit www.wilder.org.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation  exclusively dedicates its assets to improving health in Minnesota, awarding more than $30 million since it was established in 1986. The Foundation’s purpose is to make a healthy difference in people’s lives by improving the community conditions that affect the health of children and families.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 37 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 100 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.