Our health status should not be predicated on our place of residence, but that is invariably the case across the country, and particularly true in St. Louis, where the life expectancy living in an inner-city ZIP code is 18 years lower than someone living in a ZIP code less than 10 miles away. There are many factors that have conspired to reduce the health status of Black Americans in the U.S. These include social and structural determinants of health, such as systemic racism and sociocultural barriers, which lead to inadequate social and built environments, inadequate information and knowledge, risk-promoting lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors, exposure to carcinogens, and diminished access to health care. The persistence of unconscionable disparities obligates systemic reform to improve the health of the African American community. Rebuilding our neighborhoods and schools, and eliminating intergenerational poverty would go a long way to improving the health of African Americans in St. Louis.
Will Ross, MD, MPH, is associate dean for diversity, principal officer for community partnerships, and alumni-endowed professor of medicine in the Nephrology Division at Washington University School of Medicine. For over 25 years, Dr. Ross has developed innovative medical school pipeline programs and recruited and developed a diverse workforce of medical students, residents and faculty. He has promoted health equity locally, nationally and globally through collaborations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and public health officials in Ethiopia and Haiti. He recently co-developed an undergraduate program in public health in Haiti. He is the founder of the former Saturday Free Health Clinic and co-founder of Casa de Salud Latino Health Center. Dr. Ross is also advisory board chair and founding member of the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, a magnet health professions high school in St. Louis. A graduate of Yale University, he completed medical school at Washington University School of Medicine, an Internal Medicine residency at Vanderbilt University, and a Renal Fellowship at Washington University. He completed a Master of Science in Epidemiology at Saint Louis University School of Public Health.