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Melissa Hennessy, 33, runs her 4-day-a-week route along Riverview Road in North Chattanooga Wednesday as she trains for the April 2, Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in Washington, D.C. Statistics reveal people in North Chattanooga are the healthiest, percentage wise, in the area.

The link to see the new interactive map is embedded in the story.

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New interactive map shows health disparities in area neighborhoods

That's what comes from ignoring primary care — you have very high emergency room and hospital visit rates that are incredibly expensive instead of providing first for primary and preventive care.

Who gets more sleep, folks who live in Alton Park or the North Shore?

Who's the worst when it comes to seeing a dentist, and what are the consequences?

And what Chattanooga neighborhood is the home of the city's worst binge drinkers?

A new interactive map from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the answers to those questions and much more.

About half of the people in the Alton Park census tract get fewer than seven hours of sleep every night, compared to about 30 percent for folks on the North Shore and Hixson, close to the national average of 29 percent, according to the CDC data.

People who live in the North Shore area are much more likely than other Chattanoogans to see a dentist — 70 percent — compared to 46 percent in the Brainerd area and 27-32 percent in poorer areas of Avondale, Riverside and Alton Park. Although the CDC does not draw a direct connection, the map also shows 11 percent of the residents of the North Shore over age 65 have lost all of their teeth, compared to 18 percent in St. Elmo, 22.5 percent in the Belvoir area of Brainerd and 48 percent in Alton Park. The national average is 17 percent.

Dr. James Bailey, a public health specialist and director of the Center for Health System Improvement at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, said he welcomed the CDC data.

"Having that kind of community health assessment gives us just the kind of marching orders we need to build better health systems to serve people better," he said.

The map, available at www.cdc.gov/500cities/, includes data for 27 different health care issues, grouped into three general areas: healthy outcomes, prevention, and unhealthy behaviors. The data is available at the census tract level for the 500 largest cities in the United States (but that means the data is not available for Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Red Bank, East Ridge or other small towns near Chattanooga).

"Having the ability to report and map health data at city and neighborhood levels is a game changer for public health," said Dr. Wayne H. Giles, director of CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in a news release. "Local level data available through the 500 Cities website provide health information to better inform and target strategies that are proven to work in improving health."

The raw information is taken from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which interviews some 400,000 people each year about their health habits.

Among the findings for Chattanooga:

- There was little difference among the city's neighborhoods in terms of annual visits to a doctor for routine checkups. But there was broad difference in the number of people who have health insurance to pay for those visits. In Hixson and the North Shore, only 9-10 percent of residents did not have health insurance, compared to 33-42 percent in East Lake, Glenwood and Alton Park. The national average for the percentage of people without health insurance was 15 percent at the time the CDC collected its data.

- The rate of obesity was about double in low-income neighborhoods compared to those with higher incomes, ranging from 25-32 percent on the North Shore, Hixson and parts of Brainerd, but as high as 51 percent in Riverside and Avondale along Amnicola Highway.

- The percentage of people who have had a stroke was about double in lower-income neighborhoods (7-8 percent) as compared to wealthier communities (2-3 percent).

- And who are the worst binge drinkers in Chattanooga — defined for men as having five or more drinks in one day and four drinks in a day for women within the previous 30 days? Wealthier folks. Fourteen to 15 percent of North Shore and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus residents reported binge drinking in the previous month, compared to only 12-13 percent in Belvoir or St. Elmo, and only 6 percent in Alton Park. But Chattanoogans in general are relative teetotalers. The national average for binge drinking was 17 percent.

Bailey emphasized the importance of better primary care to prevent more serious problems from developing. He cited a local pastor in the Whitehaven neighborhood in Memphis who noted that there are more dialysis centers in the neighborhood than primary care clinics.

"That's what comes from ignoring primary care — you have very high emergency room and hospital visit rates that are incredibly expensive instead of providing first for primary and preventive care," he said.

Bailey said the data was not that encouraging even from some of the wealthier neighborhoods, noting that only 70-80 percent of people are getting basic care such as an annual health checkup.

"That's really unacceptable," he said. "It leads to strokes in the wealthier population, too, because they are not getting the basics. We emphasize emergencies and hospital care to our detriment."

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673, sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook, www.facebook/com/noogahealth.

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