Life expectancy dramatically lower in Houston's Black, brown communities, study says

Erica Simon Image
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Life expectancy much lower in Black, brown communities
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The disparities are due to a number of factors, including environmental hazards, but some neighborhoods are working to make a change.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new analysis conducted by Air Alliance Houston shows people in Hispanic and Black communities in the city are dying younger and sicker. For reasons out of their control, they're not living as long as their counterparts in more affluent areas.

Eyewitness News visited Trinity Gardens in northeast Houston, where life expectancy is lower than the national average. The Northeast Houston Redevelopment Council started the garden a few months ago along with the Northeast Houston Farmers Market last year.

The market serves about 300 residents in the area each month. They also have a food pantry.

"As we found out, when the supply chain started to break down in March, and we didn't know how we were going to get food into the community, it's vital," explained Huey German-Wilson, the president of the Northeast Houston Redevelopment Council.

The work she and her colleagues are doing is helping address the disparities. Air Alliance Houston identified hundreds of facilities in its 2019 report that operate within one mile of Houston's complete communities, such Acres Homes, Second Ward and Gulfton.

It also listed the life expectancy rates from the U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project, also known as USALEEP.

According to USALEEP, life expectancy ranges from 65.7 to 89.1 years -- a disparity of nearly 23 and a half years between neighborhoods. In Acres Homes, the average life expectancy is 66.4 years.

Meanwhile, in Kashmere Gardens, the life expectancy is also in the 60s, which concerns the head of the super neighborhood council, Keith Downey.

"When you're hearing about years taken off someone's life because they didn't have access to resources, this is not fair. This is a major injustice in our community. What are we doing to change this?" he asked.

So what's causing this? The answer is simple: Pollution and limited access to fresh food, produce, healthcare, places to walk or exercise, and transportation.

Jackie Hargrove in Trinity Gardens is considered one of the fortunate ones.

"My motto is 'got gas, will go.' So, it takes me to the better places where I can buy fresh vegetables. I can buy fresh fruit. I don't have to buy meat that has brown on it," she said.

In arguably the wealthiest nation on Earth, local leaders feel like their residents shouldn't be left behind. Most are working and doing the best they can, but more is needed.

They believe change is needed.

"There has to be equity and resources. We're not asking for a leg up so we can get ahead. We're asking for equal footing," said Downey.

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