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How zip codes impact our health

January 19, 2023 |3 minute read time

Once a rich center of arts and culture, Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District is now a food desert, lacking convenient grocery stores in a community where over half the residents don’t have cars.

It’s a classic example of how zip codes affect not only access to healthy food but also to reliable transportation, clean air, affordable housing, accessible childcare and available jobs — all things that directly impact wellness.

“Over 80% of one's health is determined by non-clinical drivers of health, what are often called social determinants of health. It is much less about what happens within the walls of a doctor's office or a hospital,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Health Equity Officer, CVS Health®.

In Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the city’s oldest predominantly Black neighborhood, the Ebenezer Baptist Church is working to improve the community’s social determinants of health through a collaboration with CVS Health.

“As a health care provider, it’s our responsibility to really try to make a change in a community,” says John White, Senior Manager, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives program. “A lot of times we have nonprofits trying to make these changes and they don’t have the resources to do it. As a large company, we were able to help.”

The collaboration with the Ebenezer Church began with a conversation between John and Pastor Vincent Campbell. Today, the church offers multiple services including a CVS Health Workforce Innovation and Talent Center (WITC) that offers free job training, hot meals, a community food pantry, a health care clinic and drop-in childcare. There is no charge for anything.

“We have made a commitment to say no one who comes to us to receive help should ever have to pay with their dignity,” says Campbell.

How we’re advancing health equity

A key part of the company’s commitment to health equity includes building trusted relationships in underserved communities like Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

“Many people within historically marginalized and underserved groups mistrust the health care system,” says Dr. Khaldun. “It's well documented that bias exists in the health care system, with people getting different care based on what they look like and where they are from.”

Dr. Khaldun also points to a lack of diversity in the health care system: “When people don’t see health care providers who look like them and don’t have shared lived experiences, it has a negative impact on their health.”

In the Hill District, however, the unique collaboration between CVS Health and the Ebenezer Baptist Church has made inroads to building trust; John and Pastor Campbell estimate that more than 11,000 residents have used the services in just this last year.