Your ZIP code may have a larger impact on your health than your genetic code. As part of an analysis of health status across Northern Kentucky communities, the Northern Kentucky Health Department examined a variety of factors that can impact health, including levels of education and income. The results show significant differences in communities, with life expectancy in certain areas almost 10 years higher than others.
The analysis is part of a larger project to examine health equity in Northern Kentucky.
“We know that health is not evenly distributed throughout Northern Kentucky,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “Every person in Northern Kentucky should have the opportunity to be as healthy as possible regardless of who they are or where they live, work, go to school or play. These reports will provide the Health Department and other community partners with the data to hone in on particular factors that influence health in our communities.”
To analyze health at a more granular level, Health Department staff divided its four Northern Kentucky counties (Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton) into 17 ZIP code-based regions to provide a large enough sample with which to compare data. If more than one ZIP code was combined to form a region, the communities share both a border and some similar characteristics.
Data on health status, life expectancy, income and education levels, as well as the community’s priority health outcomes of obesity, substance use disorders and heart disease were mapped by these regions. Staff can then better understand the distribution of health problems in Northern Kentucky, which helps in working with community partners and planning programs and services.
Some key data points from the health equity, health status and life expectancy maps:
- Northern Kentuckians overall rank their health status as being better than that of Kentucky; but some areas of Northern Kentucky feel they are healthier than others. When asked how they rank their own health, 83.5 percent of Northern Kentuckians say they have good, very good or excellent health, compared to 77.7 percent statewide. Yet five ZIP code-based regions of Northern Kentucky (Hebron, Edgewood/Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Union and Independence) say they are even healthier, ranking above 91 percent.
- Poverty and lack of education tend to be linked with poor health in areas of Northern Kentucky.Areas of Northern Kentucky with higher rates of poverty and lower educational levels tend to have lower life expectancies and lower rates of health care coverage. Further, when people from these areas are asked about their health status, they rank it lower.
- Overall self-reported health care coverage (such as private health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid) is lower in Northern Kentucky as compared to the rest of the state.Across the four Northern Kentucky counties, an analysis of self-reported coverage rates from 2011-2015 show that 83.5 percent of Northern Kentuckians have health care coverage, compared to 93.1 percent statewide. These numbers include residents who obtained coverage via Medicaid with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Again, health care coverage varies across communities, with Union on the high end at 95.7 percent covered and Williamstown/Corinth in Grant County on the lower end, with coverage rates of 77.1 percent.
The health equity data is presented in an interactive story map format, and brings Northern Kentucky-specific information from a variety of state and national data sources into one central location. The online format is flexible, too, allowing users to quickly view overall data, or to dig deeper and look at specific areas of Northern Kentucky.
“Communities across the United States are looking at disparities in health and these story maps are helping us do that here in Northern Kentucky,” said Saddler. “As we work with our community partners to change the factors that impact health, we will use these story maps to track Northern Kentucky’s progress toward becoming the healthiest region in the nation – for all residents.”
For more information about health equity and to view the reports, visit this link or call the Health Department at 859.341.4264.