Common public belief is health inequities are the product of all other societal inequities, such as education, poverty, race, and income. This is evident across the nation, especially in the boroughs of New York. A recent study done by the New York City Department of Health published public-health profiles of communities, which showed how New Yorker’s health varied drastically by neighborhood. The neighborhoods’ variation in health was clearly correlated with its predominate race, level of income, and household quality.
Predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods are often associated with higher poverty rates, and therefore lower household quality. According to a study done by the National Center for Healthy Housing, over 33% of New York homes were built before 1940, and New York has the largest portion of pre-1950 housing in the nation. This comes with serious health hazards, which include mold, asbestos, dust, and pests, like cockroaches and mice. A low-quality household is significantly detrimental to a residence’s health by exposing them to risks of asthma, respiratory problems, lead poisoning, and other injuries. In some low-income parts of New York, as many as 1 in 4 children have asthma.
For example, all but one of Brooklyn’s predominately Black neighborhoods had a higher number of avoidable adult and children asthma hospitalizations than the overall borough and city average. As neighborhoods’ demographic became whiter, the number of asthma hospitalizations went down. For example, a predominately black neighborhood in Brooklyn, called Bed-Stuy, had 1,071 avoidable adult and children asthma hospitalizations per 100,000 people compared to predominately white neighborhoods, like Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, which had 184 avoidable adult and children asthma hospitalizations per 100,000 people. In Brooklyn, the neighborhoods with the highest avoidable adult and children asthma hospitalization rates are all over 80% Black and Latino and have some of the lowest quality housing.
The New York City Health Department recently released Take Care New York 2020 (TCNY 2020), which is the department’s blueprint for helping people achieve a healthier life. The report ranked the top five health priorities for each of its five boroughs and included some details on some solutions. Also, as seen in the picture, The Health Department followed up with a Neighborhood Health Initiative. The initiative included eight targeted poor-health neighborhoods, each neighborhood’s top health priority, and a non-profit organization, or “Planning Partner” that will aid in the neighborhood’s health development.
One of the neighborhoods is Washington Heights, Manhattan, and has defective housing as its top health problem. In order to create a healthier neighborhood, the Health Department’s Healthy Home Program is partnering with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) to develop low-cost, sustainable, and healthy interventions in housing, like Integrated Pest Management, to reduce sources of asthma and other diseases.
This is one of the few initiatives detailed in TCNY 2020 to achieve the goal of healthier lives. Other initiatives involve increasing the number of baby-friendly hospitals and birthing centers, increasing low-income communities’ access to healthy grocery stores and providing education about healthy eating, and a city-wide health care program for low-income immigrants who are not eligible for health insurance due to their immigration status. Ultimately, TCNY 2020 is taking significant strides to promote healthier children, healthier neighborhoods, access to quality care, and overall healthy living.