Cardiovascular Disease in the Nation's Capital: How Policy and the Built Environment Contribute to Disparities in CVD Risk Factors in Washington, D.C.


Health Policy Research Consortium, A CTIS, Inc. Program, 6401 Golden Triangle Drive, Suite 310, Greenbelt, MD, 20770, USA. [Email]


On average, Washington D.C. residents experience low levels of cardiovascular disease (CVD) behavioral risk factors compared to the rest of the country. Despite presenting as a city of low risk, CVD mortality is higher than the national average. Driving this inconsistency are vast racial disparities as Black D.C. residents die from CVD at a much higher rate than their White counterparts. A closer examination of the data also reveals significant disparities between White and Black populations with regard to behavioral risk factors. Segregation and the built environments of sections of the city with large Black populations may be contributing to risk factor disparities. We examine factors in those built environments that contribute to disparities and assess the intentionality and effectiveness of policies focused on food access, physical activity, and tobacco use implemented between 2003 and 2014. We found that D.C. enacted few policies intentionally designed to reduce barriers in the physical environment that contributed to disparate outcomes, and the few that were implemented showed mixed results in their levels of effectiveness. Our findings demonstrated that both racial and geographical disparities have persisted for more than a decade and half. It is possible that the formation of intentional policies may help reduce barriers in the physical environment and disparate CVD outcomes.


Built environment,Cardiovascular disease,Health disparities,Policy,Risk factors,