Researches also examined the years of life lost in each area - a calculation arrived at by assuming that each resident should live to be 75 years old (the statewide life expectancy is 78), and then subtracting the average death age. Viewed this way, there are 10 communities where homicides are the single largest cause of lost years of life - robbing neighborhoods of productive years. In Madison and East End, on the city's east side, homicides account for 22 percent of all of the years lost to death in the neighborhood. In Westport, homicides represent 18 percent of the years of life lost, and in Cherry Hill it was 17 percent.
"You can really see why we are treating homicides as a public health issue," Sharfstein said. In other areas such as Seton Hill and Reservoir Hill, HIV/AIDS is either the highest or near the highest cause of potential lost years. Such information, Sharfstein said, will be critical in looking for grant funding.
Sharfstein was quick to note that the neighborhood studies represent what he called a "snapshot" and do not reflect progress made in neighborhoods over time, including this year's drop in homicides.
Hollins Market, listed as part of an area with the lowest life expectancy in the city, has benefited in the past two years from more police attention and development. Yesterday, the sounds of saws buzzed from an alley where developers are rehabbing former crack houses to create units of low-income housing. A new Vietnamese fusion restaurant called Pho draws residents from all over the city.
But the residents weren't surprised to learn that their neighborhood had one of the lowest life expectancies. "I'd say there are a lot of unhealthy people here," said Jimmie Pearson. "Its drug-infested. Its rodent-infested. It is trashy."
Diana Cummings, 58, a former drug addict, complained that her tap water is brown and rats boldly gobble up food she puts out for her dog. She said she's clean now, but that she still likes to have her beer. A bottle was half-empty on the ground near her.
About 1 p.m. yesterday, Pamela Michelle Scott, 37, had just finished her monthly shopping to purchase 30 days' worth of meat from Hollins Market. She goes to the nearby Giant to buy canned vegetables. She's reared five healthy children and said that she made good use of the free clinics and food banks.
"They've given us what we need," she said. But others with fractured families don't always take advantage of those resources.
Across town in Roland Park, many residents going in and out of the Eddies supermarket didn't have time, or desire, to talk about the city's health problems. Jane Davis was shopping at Eddies of Roland Park and said she was not surprised by the disparity. She declined to give her age but said she's in the Social Security collection years and explained that she has a condo in Guilford, a neighborhood where residents have the second-longest life expectancy. However, she said she spends most of time at her West Virginia cabin, where she likes to hike.