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Bridging the Health Gap From North To South San Antonio

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San Antonio Metropolitan Health District
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DIsparities in longevity are apparent in this graphic that shows many people on San Antonio's north side live up to 20 years longer than their south side counterparts.

Where you live in San Antonio has a bearing on how long you live.  Changing that kind of health inequity will take years.  It's a challenge the community is taking on.

Access to insurance has made headlines recently, but what determines people’s health is much more complex, including many of the circumstances of daily life.

  

According to family medicine specialist Robert Ferrer, MD, those circumstances include "healthy food, healthy transportation networks, getting kids to graduate from high school and get on a trajectory to jobs that pay good wages."

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Robert Ferrer, MD, is the board chairman of the Health Collaborative. He is also a family medicine specialist at UT Health San Antonio.

  

Ferrer is part of the Health Collaborative, a non-profit working with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to come up with a new Community Health Improvement Plan. The first of four meetings took place at the University of the Incarnate Word’s new medical school at Brooks City Base, which will assign its students specific south side families. The students will help those families with their health issues while earning their degrees.

"We will have our student adopt a family," explained Mangla, who is the school's Director of Public Health and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Research. "This is a very different model. And nobody has done it."

Sobering statistics show people who live south of a line at about Hildebrand Avenue live shorter lives than north San Antonians, succumbing to diabetes, kidney and heart disease at much higher rates. To read the full report, click here.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
More than a hundred community members showed up for the first of four meetings to strategize for the new Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).

  

"We saw up to 20 years difference in the life span for families from the north to the south," said Elizabeth Lutz, Executive Director of the Health Collaborative.

Lutz explained helping change that stunning figure will include work on improving literacy, education, safe streets, affordable housing and transportation and access to good food. "Access, availability and affordability are key ingredients to having a healthier family," she added. 

After strategy sessions in April, May and June, the new Community Health Improvement Plan will be released this summer.