Alexandria, VA – How healthy is Alexandria? A new Alexandria Health Department report has outlined a “complete” picture of the healthiness of the city’s residents, and the results are mixed. The City of Alexandria’s Community Health Assessment states that health outcomes of residents depend on their race, gender, zip code, and education.
“The uncomfortable facts that this report reveals are that socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, national origin, education, and even zip code is a determining factor for life expectancy, access to health care services, especially mental health services, hospitalization rates, experiences with chronic conditions, cancer outcomes, fitness levels in obesity, and access to healthy food,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said. “If we simply deny and accept this report, put it on a shelf, acknowledge the facts that it represents and then do nothing else, we failed and we wasted all of these efforts that all of you have worked on for so long. We must take meaningful action to address the challenges and disparities that this report reveals.”
The city’s health department with a Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria to develop a Community Health Improvement Plan over the next six months.
Wilson said that the health indicators listed in the report are merely windows into larger issues that face the city.
“I think we are taking a very tough look at ourselves in the mirror here with this assessment,” Wilson said. “We’re challenging our community and the services that we provide to serve the community better.”
What’s In The Report
“If you go through your preventive checkup likely they are going to ask you some questions, they may do some tests to identify if you have any major health issues. So, essentially we do a CHA [Community Health Assessment] for the same reason,” said Natalie Talis, public health planner for the Alexandria Health Department.
From spring 2018 to this summer, the Alexandria Health Department collected data on its Community Health Assessment with the goal of understanding where they city stands health-wise. The report was compiled with the help of the Inova Health System and other health departments throughout Northern Virginia.
Alexandria is home to about 154,710 people, and while the median household income is $93,400, much of the community is poverty stricken. The city’s poorest residents live in the West End and North Del Ray.
“One of the things that we also know is that one in 10 adults live in poverty and nearly one in five children live in poverty,” said Dr. Stephen Haering, the director of the Alexandria Health Department. “What we know about populations as a whole is that with increased education and increased economic viability, you have improved health.”
The Top 10 Health Conditions Affecting Alexandria are:
- Chronic Conditions
- Economic Stability
- Health Care Access
- Injury and Violence
- Mental Health
- Neighborhood and Build Environment
- Obesity, Nutrition and Physical Activity
- Oral Health
- Sexual and Reproductive Health
- Tobacco and Substance Use
By The Numbers
Most Alexandrians with health insurance get it through their employer [54 percent], but nearly 14 percent of residents have no coverage at all. About 1 out of 14 residents is living with a disability.
Respondents determined Alexandria’s five top health issues:
- Mental health problems (depression, anxiety, stress, suicide)
- Alcohol, drug, and/or opiate abuse
- Differences in health outcomes for different groups of people
- Violence and abuse
Respondents also voted on the top quality of life improvements needed:
- Housing that is affordable
- Access to health care
- Educational opportunities [schools, libraries, universities]
- Welcoming of diversity [social, cultural, faith, economic]
- Access to healthy food [fresh fruits and vegetables]
Dental problems are also a top concern for many demographics, including households making less than $50,000 a year, those without a high school diploma, Spanish and Arabic-speaking residents, and respondents of color.