Auburn's task: Help people live longer

A new study shows low-income Auburn residents have a lifespan much lower than their counterparts in Seattle and it has nothing to do with the environment. The report says the economy is shortening lives. (Photo: KOMO News)

AUBURN, Wash. -- A new study shows low-income Auburn residents have a lifespan much lower than their counterparts in Seattle and it has nothing to do with the environment. The report says the economy is shortening lives.

Auburn has revitalized its downtown, and now it's desperately trying to revitalize it's low-income citizens who have the shortest lifespan of anyone in King County.

"It's really scary," said Auburn resident Leticia Mendez. She is among thousands of residents in Auburn who have a life expectancy that is 10 years less than residents of Seattle and Bellevie.


"We're trying to do the right thing," said Mendez. "Eat healthy, no processed food, exercise and see just because we live in Auburn that's low."

The Washington Citizens Action Network (CAN) says its study found the main issue is lack of access to high quality food. Even though Auburn has several grocery stores, getting to them is a challenge.

"Access to food is no longer a human right, it's a privilege," said Emi Yoko of CAN.


Elizabeth Kimball of Public Health-Seattle & King County said, " 'Food insecure' households often purchase cheap unhealthy foods to stave off hunger. And parents skip meals sacrificing their own nutrition for the sake of their children."

Yoko said, "I have talked to several individuals who have to decide whether or not to fill their prescription or buy their next meal."

The study shows the lack of transportation as a key factor in an area that embraced low-income housing, but didn't get the public transit that enables low-income people to get to the store.

"With mobility comes the ability to improve your lot in life." said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus.

Backus says the shorter life expectancy has been known for several years, but now they're getting a better handle on why. "When that report first came out it was shocking. It was concerning and it moved us to action."

Part of the solution is working in partnership with Tilth Alliance, and it's collection of organic farms. That is where the Auburn Good Food Bag program comes into play.

The mayor said getting people fed inexpensively iIs getting them healthier with the goal of increasing their life expectancy.

The health department said among the four regions of the county, life expectancy is lowest for residents in South King County and residents of Auburn have the shortest life expectancy.

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