Skip to main content
IDB Documentary Explores Link Between Zip Code and Health

‘Health in the City. How Zip Codes Shape Health in LAC’ investigates how urban environments affect our quality of life and life expectancy

A person’s zip code has a more significant impact on their life expectancy than their genes do. This is the premise of Health in the City. How Zip Codes Shape Health in LAC, a documentary produced by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that examines how urban settings influence our life expectancy and quality of life.

The documentary, which premieres today, May 30, transports viewers to several cities in Latin America and the Caribbean to show why residents of wealthy neighborhoods enjoy better health than people living in vulnerable areas, or why the most segregated areas of cities had more COVID-19 cases and deaths during the pandemic.

Health in the City… visits cities like Santiago de Chile, where life expectancy can vary by as much as 15 years from one neighborhood to another. This disparity, present in many other cities in the region, reveals how scarce housing options, overcrowding, limited open space, or the absence of a good transportation system can take a greater toll on people’s health than habits like poor diet, smoking, or lack of physical exercise.

In the 36-minute film, sociologists, epidemiologists, and city planning specialists reflect on how the region needs urban planning policies that foster tighter-knit communities and favor well-being. The documentary features architects like Alejandro Aravena, winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize, and epidemiologists such as Ana Diez Roux of Drexel University (Philadelphia).

In the documentary, Carolina Piedrafita, coordinator of the IDB Cities Lab and senior housing specialist, explains that eight of the world’s 20 most unequal countries are in Latin America and the Caribbean. "COVID-19 embodied how these inequalities play out in the area of health. It is no coincidence that a region with 8.4% of the world's population had 27% of global deaths," she explains.

Health in the City… calls on urban planners to expand their focus beyond the quality of housing and sanitation services, which are unquestionably critical aspects, to also encompass the profound impact of cities’ physical and social environment on their residents’ health.

Watch the documentary Health in the City. How Zip Codes Shape Health in LAC here.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social, and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research projects and provides policy advice, technical assistance, and training to public- and private-sector clients throughout the region


Salgado Derqui, Javier Jose

Salgado Derqui, Javier Jose
Jump back to top