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Dejun Su, Ph.D., associate professor and director, Center for Reducing Health Disparities in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The calculator has spoken, and it’s suggesting that my wife and all the rest of you are gonna have to put up with me for a long, long time.

I recently punched my numbers into this fascinating new calculator developed by a University of Nebraska Medical Center professor. My age, height and weight. Then I typed in the facts of me: white, male nonsmoker who doesn’t eat many fruits and vegetables. Then, finally, I punched in my ZIP code.

I am 38. The new life expectancy calculator told me that, by the numbers, I can expect to live 54.9 years, to the year 2074 … before I slowly shuffle off this mortal coil right around my 93rd birthday.

I seriously cannot wait to fly to the cemetery in my self-driving hover hearse. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Committee to Overthrow Our Robot Overlords.

But let’s hold off on the lame Jetsons jokes for a moment, because to me the most fascinating and most troubling part of this calculator isn’t how long it says people like me live.

What’s fascinating, and deeply concerning, is how long it says I live if I change just one number … my ZIP code.

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Let me illustrate. Let’s keep every other number of mine the same, but instead of living in ZIP code 68102, let’s say I was born and raised in 68131 or 68110 or 68111.

Change my ZIP code and the calculator predicts that I will never see my 90th birthday, nor my 85th.

By the numbers, if I were a longtime resident of north or northeast Omaha, I could expect to die nearly a decade sooner than I’m predicted to now.

In fact, this difference is so great that the calculator actually predicts that you are better off being a cigarette-smoking resident of downtown Omaha than a nonsmoking resident of north Omaha.

“People might know the importance of living in healthy, well-developed neighborhoods,” says Dejun Su, the associate professor who led the life expectancy calculator project. “They may have some rough sense of the disparities.

“But they probably do not understand the magnitude of this. They do not understand the size of these gaps.”

Su is the director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the med center. He led a team that fed a decade of statewide census and mortality data — including life expectancy by ZIP code — into computers to develop the calculator tool. It’s the most ambitious project of its kind undertaken in Omaha, med center officials believe.

You can try it out for yourself here: publichealth.unmc.edu/lec/index.html. You can watch how your life expectancy changes if you lose 10 pounds, or bump your daily fruit-and-vegetable intake, or go from being a smoker to a nonsmoker. It’s a great way to bring the benefits of healthy living into focus, to show us that, generally speaking, Nebraskans can give themselves a little more time on this Earth if they exercise and eat more carrots.

Obviously, these are data-backed generalities — we all know the person who ate all the veggies, jogged 5 miles a day and dropped dead way too soon.

But, to me, the longevity calculator’s most striking feature is highlighting the huge role that geography, and the underlying socioeconomic factors tied to geography, plays in helping to determine how long we live.

This ZIP code level data shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel. The life expectancy numbers of individual neighborhoods will pingpong around from year to year because we’re dealing with relatively small sample sizes.

But, overall: Those of us who are born, raised and live in the western suburbs of Omaha, or in specific neighborhoods in central Omaha, are expected to live well past 80.

Those born, raised and living in north Omaha, parts of South Omaha and Bellevue are expected to die much sooner.

In fact, there’s roughly a 12-year gap in average lifespan between those living in suburban Omaha and those living in north Omaha.

“It tells us that, in this city and in this state, we have a long journey to go to address this gap,” Su says.

I asked the health disparity researcher about the reasons behind that yawning gap, and he asked me to imagine a pyramid.

Research shows that basic socioeconomic factors make up the bottom layer of this pyramid — the foundation upon which the disparity is built, he says.

“Decent education. Good access to jobs. Income that allows people to make a life of dignity. Those are the foundational factors,” he says.

And then you build upon that. People living in socioeconomically distressed areas of the city probably have less access to healthy food. They probably have less access to good medical care. They probably have less access to good prenatal care and parenting classes that might help boost the next generation. They probably live in areas with higher crime rates. They suffer from higher levels of preventable disease. They have higher levels of tobacco use, alcohol abuse, drug abuse.

And on and on it goes, until death do us part — a death expected to come years sooner if you grow up a poor black kid in north Omaha rather than a well-off white kid in Papillion.

Another important thing to note about the life expectancy calculator: It also shows that pockets of rural Nebraska, particularly southeast Nebraska, are lagging behind the state average in life expectancy. That might be more surprising than the low life expectancy in parts of northeast Nebraska, where Nebraska’s Native American tribes are clustered.

And it also might push back against the idea that this only happens in the inner city or on a reservation … if you assemble enough of that pyramid’s building blocks, this can happen in a small town, too.

Su doesn’t think the calculator will solve any of these gargantuan problems, not by itself. But he’s hopeful that the life expectancy calculator will open some eyes about the reality of Omaha. About how our ZIP code might matter far more than we ever realized or acknowledged.

“We all live in this city,” he says. “If we don’t talk about equity, we’re failing the mission of public health.”

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