Council Report: Life expectancy study hits Fort Worth hard

A study on life expectancy in Texas had some bad news for Fort Worth. At its March 26 work session, the Fort Worth City Council received an informal report on a recent study conducted by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on life expectancy in Texas. The study found that zip code 76104 – including the Near Southside, the Historic Southside, and Morningside – has a lower life expectancy than any other zip code in the state, 66.7 years.

The informal report reveals how the city is working with leaders of local faith-based institutions, health care institutions, and business organizations to address the study’s findings, with the goal of developing a strategy to improve the health and life expectancy of residents in this part of Fort Worth.

Dr. Stephanie Pruitt, a researcher at UT Southwestern, published the groundbreaking report on life expectancy across the state. Her work is designed to help guide policies and programs that optimize health for everyone, regardless of their zip code.

“Everyone was a little alarmed to hear that in all of Texas, one of our own zip codes has the lowest life expectancy,” Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington said. “It definitely caught our attention. I think moving forward we have an opportunity to make this a focus area.”

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After learning about the report, Pastor Kyev Tatum of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church invited Dr. Pruitt to visit his Morningside church and share her findings with community leaders and residents. Discussions have resulted in an upcoming event to be called “Unity Across the Trinity: Neighborhood Health Summit to Change the Trajectory of Life Expectancy in Our Inner City.” This event is set for Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church, 2864 Mississippi Ave.

District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray pointed out that the 76104 zip code includes JPS and Harris Hospitals, along with several nursing homes, which she noted helped perpetuate the mortality count.

Washington agreed, saying, “It (the report) looked at just the death certificates. We want to dig a little bit deeper and understand what those causes are.”

The agenda will focus on creating a community conversation about life expectancy in the inner city of Fort Worth and developing a long-term plan to address this critical issue. The event is being organized with collaboration from the City of Fort Worth, local churches, chambers of commerce, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, JPS Health Network, Cook Children’s Medical Center, and Texas Health Resources.

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“We want it to be an opportunity to listen to the community,” Washington said. “We realize it’s going to be a long-term plan, but we do think there’s conversations we can have now to move the needle in the right direction.”

For more on the report: