Deeply Rooted: History’s Lessons for Equity in Northern Virginia

About the report

Deeply Rooted: History's Lesson for Equity in Northern Virginia recounts the long history of exclusion and segregation in Northern Virginia, which has harmed the health of residents of some communities and concentrated wealth and opportunity for others, a process that has occurred over generations and continues today.   

The research provides a “backstory” to a 2017 VCU study for the Northern Virginia Health Foundation that documented a 17-year gap in life expectancy across Northern Virginia, an area known for its affluence and quality of life. The 2017 study identified 15 “islands of disadvantage,” clusters of census tracts where residents—disproportionately people of color—face living conditions that take years off their lives, such as poverty, low levels of education, lack of affordable housing, and inadequate access to health care.  

From the author:

Steven Woolf, MD, MPH,
Director Emeritus of the VCU Center on Society and Health:

The disadvantaged neighborhoods we see today did not come about by accident—decades of policies have served to segregate people of color and choke off opportunities for education and wealth-building, making a downhill economic spiral inevitable. The good news is that if policies got us here, policies can get us out. Being intentional today about opening doors of opportunity for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and other immigrants is good for our region, can strengthen the economy, and will help make us whole.

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For more about this report, stories of displacement, resilience, and resistance in Northern Virginia, visit