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From Our CEO

August 21, 2012

Our View of Health Care: Does it Matter Where We Live?

Earlier this week, the “Chronicle of Philanthropy” released a new study titled “How American Gives.” The analysis of IRS filings from 2008 reveals interesting trends about how households across the country donate to philanthropic causes. 

The findings are quite remarkable and worthy of detailed exploration.  For example, the median contribution from Coloradans was $2,317, or 4.2 percent of median income. That’s less than the 4.7 percent national average giving. In my ZIP code of 80111 in Englewood, giving was 4.3 percent of our median income.

But one statement really got me thinking: “The nation’s most-generous ZIP codes aren’t its richest. And when large numbers of rich people live in one neighborhood, their giving is even more likely to drop to well below average rates.”

Does this transfer to our thinking about health? I wonder how our attitudes toward health as a public benefit are shaped by where we live.  Do we think of Medicaid and other public insurance plans differently depending on our ZIP code? Are our views on policy shaped by how much daily exposure we have to populations in need of health care coverage? My hunch is that is does.

The Colorado Health Foundation’s recent annual Health Symposium revealed that our overall health – and our health outcomes – are correlated in many instances to the ZIP code where we live. (See “Does Health Live in your ZIP Code?” for a great panel discussion as well as presentations by Dr. Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University, Dr. Anthony Iton, senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment, and John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania.) From the prevalence of obesity and diabetes to the rates of teen pregnancy, we know that where you live matters. 

I wonder whether where we live shapes our overall view of the role of government in health care coverage and access.

CHI is in the data business. We look for the evidence and what it can empirically reveal. I have not come across a source (just yet!) that will shed light on this issue.  But when we do, it will be interesting to dive in to see if our overall attitudes – just like health outcomes and philanthropic giving - are impacted by our ZIP code.