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Looking Beyond Our Walls

Babies born just a few miles apart can face vastly different chances of living a long and healthy life. Much of these health disparities can be explained by the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play. These conditions are commonly called social determinants of health.

We develop strategies and build partnerships to improve the health of the communities we serve. One strategy we use is to identify and address these social determinants of health. Our work helps promote housing stability, food security, health literacy, pathways to employment, and much more.

Read below to learn more about our work, partners and the communities we serve. Read our “Beyond Our Walls” publication for a summary of our programs and recent achievements.

Map of Richmond, VA showing life expectancy by selected census tracts.

Short Distances to Large Gaps in Health

A map of Richmond, VA, produced by VCU's Center on Society and Health, shows life expectancy by selected census tracts. Residents of Westover Hills have an average life expectancy of 83 years, 20 years more than residents of Gilpin Court.

Factors that Shape Health Outcomes

Pie chart, published by the CDC, showing that 40% of health outcomes are attributable to social and economic factors, more than any other factor. Health behaviors account for 30%, clinical care 20% and physical environment 10%.

Pie chart showing the factors that shape health outcomes 

Compelling Need is On Our Doorstep

The cities and counties we serve have some of the poorest health outcomes in Virginia, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2020 County Health Rankings. However, these rankings mask tremendous health disparities. For example, a VCU Center on Society and Health report found that the life expectancy in some Richmond neighborhoods is as much as twenty years higher than in other neighborhoods despite being only a few miles apart.

The social determinants of health help explain these disparities. Residents in many communities lack access to health foods or affordable housing. Many residents do not have safe places to play or exercise and many residents cannot access employment opportunities due to lack of transportation. These barriers can prevent people from living healthy lives. 

Virginia County Rankings for Health Outcomes

Map of Virginia showing 2020 Health Outcome Rankings

Map of Virginia showing Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2020 County Health Rankings