[Excerpt of front-page feature article by Cassandra Day, Staff Writer, Middletown Press, Aug. 16, 2023]
MIDDLETOWN — There is a nearly 20-year difference in life expectancy between Black and Asian residents living in Middlesex County, according to the results of a health needs assessment based on race and ethnicity conducted by Middlesex Health.
Black residents experience the lowest average life expectancy in Middlesex County, 77.2 years, and Asians, the highest, 96.6 years, according to the 2022 health report.
In Connecticut, the average age attained is 80.3, compared to 81 in Middlesex County, based on information gleaned from the recently released DataHaven equity and well-being report on all 169 municipalities in Connecticut. Middletown’s average life expectancy was 78.7 years in 2015, it said.
DataHaven, based in New Haven, has been in operation for 30 years. It is a partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership learning network, according to its website.
“There are many factors that affect life expectancy, including equitable access to quality health care, access to healthy and nutritious foods, and access to recreational spaces,” Middletown Health Director Kevin Elak said. “Certain conditions, called social determinants of health, have an impact on the overall health, and ultimately, the life expectancy in a community."
These include economic stability, access to quality education and health care, safe neighborhoods, and maintaining positive relationships at home, work and school. Each varies depending on factors, such as one’s age, area of town in which they live, and race/ethnicity, the director added.
Only 56 percent of adults living in Middletown reported they were in excellent or very good health, DataHaven said.
The city is planning several conversations within the community over the next several months to discuss the DataHaven findings, Elak said. “Our goal will be to prioritize the areas that need the most improvement, and come up with solutions to address those needs.
“We need to do better as a community to promote health equity, and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be healthy and thrive in the community,” he added.
Socioeconomic disparities tend to correlate with health outcomes, DataHaven said. “Factors such as stable housing, employment, literacy and linguistic fluency, environmental hazards, and transportation all impact access to care, physical and mental health outcomes, and overall quality of life.
“Income and employment status can drive differences in access to health care, the likelihood of getting preventive screenings as recommended, the affordability of life-saving medicines, and the ability to purchase other goods and services, including high-quality housing and nutritious food,” DataHaven concluded. The agency also examined Middletown residents’ median income, rates of graduation and homeownership, education level, most prevalent job sectors, race, and more, comparing it to Middlesex County and Connecticut as a whole.
The equity report also details a number of other interesting conclusions. One of those findings was that the city's population has grown by less than one percent since 2020. Middletown is a city with 47,717 residents, 36 percent of whom are people of color, compared to 37 percent of residents statewide, the DataHaven report said. The median household income in Middletown ($67,485) is $16,087 lower than the statewide median ($83,572), and $23,348 lower than the Middlesex County median ($90,833).
Overall, there are nearly 1.6 million jobs in Connecticut. Of those, 27,554 are located in Middletown, the largest share of which is in the health care and social assistance sector, followed by manufacturing; retail trade; accommodation and food services; and professional, scientific and technical services, DataHaven said. The average pay in the state is $77,816, compared to $71,108 in Middletown, it said.
Among the town’s adults ages 25 and up, 39 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher the education profile said. In all, 93 percent of Middletown Public Schools seniors in the class of 2021 graduated within four years.
“We are extraordinarily proud of our students, families, teachers, support services professionals and administrators, who all work tirelessly to achieve our graduation rate,” Middletown Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Vázquez Matos said. “Our collective commitment to ensuring each and every student is supported in realizing their innate greatness."
To read the DataHaven equity and well-being report, visit ctdatahaven.org. The Middlesex Health assessment can be viewed at middlesexhealth.org.