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Three zip codes in St. Paul, Minneapolis rank high in Wilder health study

The headlines--like "Key to long life? It may be in ... your ZIP code"--oversimplified the findings in a new report on how physical well being is distributed across the metro area.

The Wilder Research study found a relationship between neighborhoods' cultural and socioeconomic makeup and their scores on health measures. But it's a stretch to claim that your ZIP code determines your lifespan, says researcher Craig Helmstetter.

It's also an oversimplification to say that the populations of city neighborhoods uniformly have shorter lifespans than those in the suburbs. Glossed over in media reports was the fact that three ZIP codes within St. Paul and Minneapolis posted health scores as glowing as any in the metro area.

The three ZIP-code areas are contiguous, in a cluster around the two University of Minnesota Twin Cities campuses: 55414 in Southeast Minneapolis and just across the city line in St. Paul, 55114 and 55108, stretching from St. Anthony Park to Como Park.

None are standouts for household income, yet they rival wealthy suburbs in health measurements, with life expectancies in the 83-years-and-up range.

Helmstetter says Wilder's report, "The Unequal Distribution of Health in the Twin Cities," commissioned by the Blue Cross Foundation, didn't put a spotlight on the three inner-city areas that posted high numbers for health partly because data like death-rates are "unstable" where population sizes aren't large.

But taken together, the ZIP codes suggest to Helmstetter that high education levels are boosting health, along with factors like walkable neighborhoods and "great places to recreate, with parks and amenities."

Source: Craig Helmstetter, Wilder Research
Writer: Chris Steller
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