Case Study: Closing Health Disparities Gap

Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters

Four-part series on the wide gap in life expectancy and disease rates between Northern California neighborhoods 12 miles apart. Winner of the White House Correspondents’ Association Edgar A. Poe Award, the National Association of Black Journalists Special Project Award, and the Best of the West, Project Reporting Award. Read the series

“In the midst of the national health care debate, these exceptionally well-reported stories offer unique and valuable lessons for public health policy,” the Poe award judges said.

“Through extensive use of county health records, Bohan and Kleffman stand conventional wisdom on its head, providing powerful evidence that variations in disease rates and life expectancies between neighborhoods in Alameda County, Calif., are not-as widely assumed-the result of poor people making bad choices about diet and exercise. Rather the discrepancies stem from multiple forces that deny those living in poor communities access to the basic resources necessary to engage in a healthy lifestyle, however great their desire to do so. These powerful and poignant stories provide an important new lens that snaps the health care debate into sharp focus. While looking closely at these issues at the county level, the stories in this series have profound national and regional implications, providing strong evidence that blaming the victims is not a substitute for dealing seriously with the underlying causes of the health care crisis.”

The response to the series led to numerous speaking engagements on covering health disparities and approaches for reducing them, as well as follow-up coverage in several publications and a subsequent book published by Island Press, Twenty Years of Life.