By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

This week, we’re looking at health insurance coverage in the St. Louis region. In today’s op-ed, Kavya Sekar discusses the intersections between community health and community development, which define why “a person’s zip code has a greater impact on a person’s health than his or her genetic code.” Our personal health is inextricably linked to the natural, social, and built environments in which we live. As research conducted by For The Sake Of All has documented, residential segregation causes health disparities in our communities and affects both health literacy and access to health care. This creates environments where life expectancy can vary widely by census tract, as a series of maps created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health illustrates. Their St. Louis map, published earlier this month, shows a stark 12-year difference in life expectancy between census tract 2121.01, southeast of Ferguson (69 years), and census tract 2109.27, west of Old Jamestown (81 years).

The maps below, created using QGIS software, take a look at health insurance coverage in our region. These maps cover the 1950 urbanized area of St. Louis. Data comes from 2010-2014 American Community Survey (ACS) Five-Year Estimates. Both maps examine the uninsured population, or people within that census tract who do not have health insurance. The total population of each census tract is defined as its total civilian noninstitutionalized population, which does not include active-duty military personnel and people living in correctional facilities and nursing homes. You can read more about the ACS 2014 subject definitions here.

The first map, in blue, displays the total number of uninsured people per census tract. Here, we can see that this number is fairly low in West St. Louis County, with spottier coverage throughout St. Louis City and North St. Louis County:

2010-2014 ACS Data 5-Year Estimates - Number Uninsured

The second map, which details the percentage of people in each census tract with no health insurance, illustrates the importance of population size. This map shares some patterns with the first one: in West St. Louis County, the percentage of uninsured people is still relatively low, and in some individual census tracts—such as 1155 and 1164 in South St. Louis City, where almost 2,000 residents do not have health insurance in each tract—a large uninsured population is visible by both measures. But other tracts travel to the opposite end of the spectrum on the second map. One notable example is tract 1270 in North St. Louis City, where the 364 people do not have health insurance comprise 29.6% of the population.

2010-2014 ACS Data 5-Year Estimates - Percentage Uninsured

To see maps from previous editions of the Community Builders Exchange, click here.