PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The fifth annual Rhode Island Life Index, a statewide survey conducted by leaders at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island and the Brown University School of Public Health, shows that Rhode Islanders perceive steep challenges finding affordable housing, meeting the rising cost of living, and accessing health care and nutritious food.
The results capture how residents perceive their well-being in 2023 — a year the data portray as fraught with concerns about economic challenges — as well as the five-year period spanning the turbulent years before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings bring to light perceptions that deteriorated during the pandemic and have since stabilized, but which continue to persist at troubling levels.
Survey leaders presented the results on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the School of Public Health to key stakeholders, community partners, policymakers and members of the public health community.
The index is unique because it goes beyond statistics to show how community members assess their own health and well-being, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the School of Public Health. While calling the results sobering, he said they also reveal important perspectives.
“There are real challenges facing the people of Rhode Island, and this survey provides a roadmap to reducing inequities and improving the health and quality of life for the people in the Ocean State, especially for those struggling the most,” Jha said. “The R.I. Life Index is providing critical information on the real-life experiences of Rhode Islanders — information we can all use to build healthier, more equitable communities for all.”
David Williams, a professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health who specializes in the study of social influences on health, was invited to discuss the significance of the findings. While commending the survey design and delivery, Williams agreed with Jha that the results show a lack of progress.
"It's not a surprise but it reminds us of the level of need that exists in Rhode Island and the work to be done to give everyone a fighting chance," Williams said.
Findings reveal the state of residents’ well-being
The R.I. Life Index asked Rhode Islanders for their perceptions on issues including the availability of affordable housing; programs and services for children and older adults; and access to health care, food, employment and transportation. On a scale of 0 to 100, higher scores indicated more positive perceptions.