Compared to other places in the country, King County is a great place to live. But with more than 2,100 square miles and 39 cities to its name, the region is hardly homogenous. When we drill down to the community level, we find great inequities in health and opportunity in King County, and the story begins to shift.
To better understand these inequities, we sat down with Marguerite Ro, Chief of Assessment, Development & Evaluation and Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention here at PublicHealth. She answered some questions about how our children, youth and communities are faring now, and what we can do to improve outcomes.
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted King County as one of the best places in the country for poor kids to grow up. Yet, data show vast inequities at the community level. How do you reconcile this information?
If you look at King County as a whole, it seems like we’re doing well. But not everyone is doing well. We’re home to big businesses like Amazon and Microsoft as well as immigrant communities who have very few resources. We are a community with a proud history of innovation and progress, but we are also a community with a history of discrimination and segregation, so you don’t get the full picture until you analyze the problem in more detail.
What drives this kind of inequity?
Socio-economic factors, such as income and education, certainly play a large role. Beyond that, we don’t have the same degree of services available from neighborhood to neighborhood. And I’m not just talking about healthcare services, though that is important. We need to think about affordable housing, quality childcare, access to healthy foods, and safe places for kids to play, too.
What role does prevention play as King County works to reduce community-level inequities?
We need to create the environments that are health promoting and create opportunities for families to reach their potential. Think of it like a ladder: for it to work, people need rungs that they can reach to pull themselves up. This requires involvement with community agencies and organizations as well as community members themselves to find out what is actually needed to foster healthy and safe environments.
Clearly, there’s much to learn from the research mentioned in the New York Times article on how place influences the opportunities kids have to reach their full potential. Across King County, new partners, both within and outside of government, are coming together with a new urgency to create environments that support every child and every community. Watch this video to learn more about one that’s unfolding right now.