If you reside around the Chattahoochee Country Club on the north end of Gainesville along the glistening shores of Lake Lanier, the average life expectancy for you and your neighbors is 79.3 years.
But if you live in the Newtown neighborhood in midtown Gainesville, a historically African-American community, about a 7-mile drive from the country club but shorter as the crow flies, your life expectancy is 75.9 years.
For residents of Newtown, living adjacent to a heavily industrial sector of the city with mills and production plants looming in the skyline may have had an impact on life expectancy rates.
The neighborhood was developed atop an old landfill along Athens Street, and high rates of cancer and lupus were chronicled among its residents in the 1990s.
The nonprofit Newtown Florist Club originated in the days of segregation seeking environmental justice and civil rights for these residents.
“After we came to understand what environmental injustice was, we often wondered what it would have been like to be able to breathe in clean air, to not be afraid to drink the water, and to never have to wonder whether or not the soil where our parents and grandparents planted their vegetable gardens was contaminated by landfill dirt,” Florist Club Executive Director Rose Johnson said.
Johnson noted that residents have suffered and died from cancers and respiratory-related illnesses that some attributed to lifestyle choices.
“Yet, there is one reality that can never be disputed,” she said. “Down through the years, our family members and friends could not escape the burden of prolonged exposure to environmental pollutants. When people in any community are forced to live and die under these unbearable conditions and others are not, the disparity is grossly inhumane.”
Johnson said residents have been known to try to ease their grief after attending funerals by crossing north over Jesse Jewell Parkway and up Green Street to breathe fresher air.
“Imagine having or needing to leave your community to go to another just to breathe differently,” she said. “In the future, our hope is that fair and just zoning and land development decisions restricting industry that emit toxins in proximity to neighborhoods will result in greater parity for communities regardless of the ZIP code or socioeconomic status of the people who live there.”
Farther south, in largely African-American neighborhoods in Morningside Heights and the Floyd Road area, life expectancy rise to 77 years, and correspond with increases in socioeconomic levels.
Life expectancy for residents in the heart of Gainesville’s industrial and rail section, which includes large-scale poultry and manufacturing plants (and also heavy concentrations of homeless individuals) have some of the lowest life expectancy in the county at 75.2 years.
It can be said that it’s not the quantity of life but the quality of how it’s lived that counts, but census data makes clearer than ever the disparity in life expectancy rates along socioeconomic and racial lines.
Quality of life, after all, often depends on good health, and researchers have long linked poverty and lack of education to poor health outcomes. And limited access to preventative care, as well as high costs, can exacerbate these inequities.
Now, it’s possible to identify the life expectancy of a single individual or family right down to the census-tract, street-level neighborhood where they reside – whereas previously, this data was only narrowed to the county and city level.
An online interactive tool is now available that shows just how strongly where you live correlates with how long you live.
It was developed by the United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project, a joint effort of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
According to Project leaders, this census data “zeros in on much smaller populations (about 4,000 people, on average) to tell a story of health outcomes at a granular level.”
“Although county-, city-, and ZIP code-level data have provided similar information, they often don’t tell the full story as neighborhoods right next to each other can experience drastically different opportunities for health and well-being,” the Project synopsis states. “Census tract-level data offer information on a much smaller and targeted group of people, making it easier to create a more complete picture of health at a local level.”
The longest life expectancy rates in Hall County include neighborhoods in Buford, Flowery Branch and across South Hall, such as Sterling on the Lake, as well as the Mundy Mill subdivision in Oakwood.
Neighborhoods along Green Street and Thompson Bridge Road north of downtown Gainesville also have some of the highest life expectancy rates in Hall.
Life expectancy rates are shortest among many of the predominantly Latino and immigrant communities in the area.
For example, residents along the Memorial Park Drive corridor on the west side of the county, which has large concentrations of Latinos, many of whom are establishing the first middle-class immigrant neighborhoods in the region, have a life expectancy of 75.4 years.
In East Hall, such as the Rabbittown and Gillsville areas where there are also large Latino communities, life expectancy is 75.1 years.
Information remains limited around the Atlanta Highway corridor, between Browns Bridge Road and Interstate 985, where Latino immigrants have established a network of neighborhoods and businesses. This may be related to insufficient census data collected from this population and demographic.
Vanesa Sarazua, executive director of Hispanic Alliance GA, based in Gainesville, said it’s no surprise local Latino immigrants, mostly from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, have shorter life expectancies than their Hall County peers given some of the physical hardships and financial demands they face.
“The poultry plant work, and the farm work, that they do are very long hours and puts a lot of stress on their health,” Sarazua said. “And sometimes they just take care of their health issues traditionally. They’re not going to the doctor.”
Some immigrants, because of varying immigration statuses within their families, may also lack access to affordable health care, or lack knowledge about what services are available to them, Sarazua added. And, sometimes, immigrants even travel back to their native countries to access cheaper care.
There is assistance available from several local health providers to try to close this gap.
For example, across its three hospitals, the Northeast Georgia Health System gave more than $40.2 million in charity care for the 2017 fiscal year.
Good News Clinics in Gainesville reported that its 2017 fiscal year budget of 1.46 million provided nearly $24 million in free health care services to low-income patients through the support of partnerships, resource donations and volunteers.
And The Longstreet Clinic provides nearly $8 million for charity care last year.
Outreach and education to Latinos about dieting, exercise and health complications resulting from substandard living conditions, such as lead paint in older homes, are important remedies, too, Sarazua said.
“They don’t know of the dangers of those things,” Sarazua added. “There’s just a whole different array of issues that our community faces that might be different from other communities.”
How long might you live?
An online interactive tool allows you to explore life expectancy rates for your neighborhood, right down to the street level, by visiting www.naphsis.org/usaleep
Life expectancy in years by nation, state, county and neighborhood
Info compiled based on specific Hall County subdivisions or populous neighborhoods in and around Gainesville, Oakwood and Flowery Branch.
- United States: 78.80
- Georgia: 77.40
- Hall County: 78.57
- Chattahoochee Country Club (north Gainesville): 79.30
- Green Street neighborhoods (downtown Gainesville): 79.10
- City of Buford (within Hall County): 79.10
- Sterling on the Lake (South Hall subdivision): 78.50
- Chicopee Mill Village: 77.90
- Mundy Mill (Oakwood): 77.90
- Oakwood Veterans Affairs Clinic: 77.30
- Floyd Road/Morningside Heights (south Gainesville) 77.00
- Newtown neighborhood of Gainesville: 75.90
- New Holland neighborhood of Gainesville: 75.90
- Memorial Park Drive (West Hall): 75.40
- Stallworth Street (midtown industrial area of Gainesville): 75.20
- The Way (homeless mission in midtown Gainesville): 75.20
- East Hall: 75.10
- Atlanta Highway (between Browns Bridge Road and Interstate 985): N/A
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
How where you live can determine life expectancy
- Variations identified in average life spans between those living in cities and in towns – sometimes as much as 20-25 years within less than a 10-mile radius
- “Islands of disadvantage” where people face serious health challenges, limited access, fewer preventative care options and have shorter life spans
- Living near a major highway or in a high-crime neighborhood may affect residents’ life expectancy
- Life expectancy can change just by living across the street or a block away
Source: United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project