Opinion | My Southeast D.C. Zip code shouldn’t be my health destiny

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Poor nutrition is a primary driver of these conditions.Moving to a disadvantaged neighborhood in Southeast D.C. helped me better appreciate this association. It also helped me understand how policymakers have made mistakes in addressing these disparities — and how, by fixing those mistakes, we can improve health outcomes for underserved Americans.My own neighborhood is a food desert. Corner stores and carry-outs are more common than grocery stores and farmers markets. Health literacy is low, and some of my neighbors lack the proper kitchenware to even prepare a meal at home.I’ve spoken to people in my community who have a strong interest in healthy eating, but they don’t know how to start. Some of them are food stamp recipients who receive food through government programs but don’t receive comprehensive nutrition resources to help them make better choices.Living in an environment with scarce resources takes a serious toll on their health — and their experiences are hardly unique.Culture, lifestyle and other social drivers of health play a role in Americans’ eating habits, of course, but so do government nutrition policies. For years, policymakers have attempted to make communities such as mine healthier. But most of their efforts have failed.Consider soda taxes, which are levied in several U.S. cities. They’re supposed to reduce Americans’ consumption of sugary beverages, yet studies indicate that they have little impact on consumption rates and caloric intake.Requiring restaurants to publicize nutrition information hasn’t worked either. As …

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