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Experts Say Social Determinants Are the Primary Factors in Life Expectancy

July 18, 2019 5:40p

(WGTD)---Speaking in Kenosha Thursday, a pediatrician from Madison says she changed the focus of her career after realizing that helping patients in a clinical setting only goes so far.

Jasmine Zapata was part of a panel discussion on health inequities that was organized by the Kenosha Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families. The group is dedicated to reducing premature births and infant deaths, especially in the African-American community, where those rates are much higher than in the Caucasian community.

Experts believe it’s because of various social determinants, including chronic stress brought on in part by systemic racism.

The 31-year-old Zapata, who’s black, says she was part of the statistics when, as a medical school student eight years ago, she gave premature birth to a baby weighing one-and-a-half pounds. The experience, she says, helped to change the direction of her medical career. "I said I wanted to be a doctor since I was five," Zapata told the luncheon gathering at the Civil War Museum. "I thought if I was a doctor what better way to save the world and help people. But then when I saw the statistics...I said I have to do more. We have to do more. When I'm in the hospital trying to save babies and do things it's too late. We have to look upstream." 

She’s since become an award-winning author and speaker on health empowerment issues.

Her baby that was born prematurely turned eight Thursday, and other than having some mild learning issues, is doing well, she says.