Health With a Capital H

Healthography: Location, Location, Location... and Health

February 19, 2014

By Sarah Byrnes, Health Communications Manager

Healthography: Location, Location, Location... and Health

The American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting is the mecca for information sharing and professional development for more than 13,000 public health professionals each year. The theme for its 2014 Annual Meeting is “Healthography: How where you live affects your health and well-being.” 

What is Healthography?

Healthography is a new term catching buzz in the public health world. A combination of “health” and “geography,” it refers to the application of geographical information when studying health. Also known as environmental health, it is the branch of public health that looks at how the natural and built environment affects health.*

Positive Healthography is all about access. Access to:

  • Clean air, water, and soil
  • Safe places to walk and green spaces for outdoor activities
  • Healthy food
  • Quality health providers
  • Transportation
  • Jobs
  • Safe housing

Each of these variables contributes to a community’s overall wellness. They can also determine how healthy a person will be over their lifetime.

In 2013, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released a series of city maps—Washington, DC; Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; San Joaquin Valley, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana—that illustrate how your ZIP code can affect your health and life expectancy. Dramatic disparities emerge within just a few miles. It’s amazing to think that your neighborhood can have such far-reaching implications on the quality of your life.

Healthography and New Orleans

Healthography is especially poignant for this year’s location for the APHA Annual Meeting, New Orleans. As you can see in this image, the disparity in life expectancy across the city is drastic—as many as 25 years!

The Prevention Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans studies the environmental health of its city, focusing on the obesity epidemic. Its mission is to conduct innovative research to learn what environmental factors contribute to unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity. Researchers translate findings into recommendations to directly improve the lives of people living in the Big Easy.

Recent highlights of this work include:

  • Advocating for the improvement of complete streets and sidewalks around public schools and increasing awareness about traffic cameras and the dangers of red-light running to improve walkability in the community.
  • Working to get more bike lanes striped on city streets, which increased the number of people cycling in those areas, and importantly, in the correct direction (with traffic), by 3 times.
  • Studying how the type and location of a new full-service supermarket may influence healthy eating attitudes and practices in the surrounding neighborhood through its Makin’ Groceries project.
*Note: #healthography is also a popular hashtag on Instagram for images of healthy food or infographics about health topics.