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New Report Shows Improvements of Health Equity in NYC

The NYC Health Department has published its third annual update on Take Care New York 2020 (TCNY 2020), the City’s comprehensive blueprint for health equity by 2020. The report includes an update on progress towards the 2020 goals, describes how housing issues are important for health, and provides four case studies of organizations that are working to improve the health of their communities. The Health Department saw significant improvements such as the lowest-ever recorded infant mortality rate in 2016; a decline in teenage births citywide, including in high-poverty neighborhoods since, 2013; and more people living in homes without maintenance defects since 2014. Even though New York City is getting healthy in many ways, progress has been elusive in measures of healthy living among New Yorkers such as obesity in very high-poverty neighborhoods and controlled high blood pressure among Blacks. The report can be found here. The Health Department also created videos that  highlight four pillars of TCNY;promoting healthy childhoods, improving health outcomes in childrensupporting healthy living and increasing  access to quality care.

“New York remains a vibrant, healthy and resilient city, and we have seen improvements in New Yorkers’ health that show promise,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “However, there remain stubborn inequities in health outcomes across communities. The Health Department is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have a fair chance at long and healthy lives no matter where they live.”

 “It is heartening to see the improvements in the health of New Yorkers in recent years, particularly the decline in infant mortality and teenage births. But we still have much work to do to eliminate the health disparities that exist in our communities,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO. “New York City’s public hospitals and community based health care centers play an important role in this progress. We are committed to addressing social determinants of health and providing a holistic approach to caring for our patients to help many more New Yorkers live their healthiest lives and meet the city’s Take Care NY 2020 goals.”

“We are pleased to see that, working together across the public and private sectors, we have made progress toward improving health in New York,” said Dr. Judith Salerno, President of The New York Academy of Medicine.  “However, now is not the time to rest, but to redouble our efforts to ensure that all New Yorkers have the same opportunity to live the healthiest lives possible.”

“I am heartened by the improvements in many metrics of New Yorkers’ health over the past year,” said Anthony Shih, MD, MPH, president of United Hospital Fund. “But we still face many challenges in overcoming the health inequities that exist between rich and underserved neighborhoods throughout the city. I look forward to working with Commissioner Barbot on overcoming these inequities, particularly through clinical-community partnerships that address the many social and economic issues, such as inadequate housing, that impact health.”

The data in the report show that New York has improved on many health indicators, but progress has been elusive in some areas. New York City’s children and neighborhoods are getting healthier, and more people have access to high quality healthcare. However, measures of healthy living such as obesity and overdose deaths in very high-poverty neighborhoods are not improving.

Key findings include:

  • The Citywide infant mortality rate in 2016 was the lowest ever recorded (4.1 per 100,000 live births), and more babies than ever were born in facilities that provide high quality maternity care.
  • The teenage pregnancy rate continues to drop both citywide (36.2 per 1,000 in 2016), and for people living in high-poverty neighborhoods specifically since 2013.
  • More people reported living in homes without maintenance defects in 2017 than in 2014 (52 percent vs. 44 percent)
  • Emergency room visits for children with asthma are down 6.5 percent citywide since 2013.

Housing and Health

The TCNY 2020 Third Annual Update report showcases the relationship between housing and health. The quality, accessibility, and stability of housing all can affect health, and there are many services that can be provided in home-settings that can support health for the residents of those buildings:

  • Improving the quality of housing through fixing disrepairs, removing asthma triggers like mold or pests, reducing exposure to lead paint, or installing modifications to make homes more accessible for people with disabilities can lead to better health.
  • Access to affordable housing for low income New Yorkers is critical to support health. When rent is high, it is hard to afford the things that can keep a family healthy, including healthy foods, heating and air conditioning bills, or co-pays for important medication.
  • Eviction and homelessness can be detrimental to a person’s health. The stress and disruption of losing one’s home can harm people physically and mentally, and it is often harder to maintain connection to healthcare when unstably housed.
  • Home-based services can be very helpful in meeting the health needs of families.  Programs that visit new mothers in their homes or perform assessments of the housing environment to better support the health of the residents have been shown to improve health outcomes.

The city has been dedicated to expanding affordable housing. The de Blasio administration financed more than 24,536 affordable homes in 2017, breaking an all-time record previously set by former Mayor Ed Koch in 1989. Nearly half of those homes – 48 percent – are allocated for people making less than $33,400 per year, or $43,000 for a family of three.

In 2017, the Mayor signed Intro. 214-B into law, which provides all low-income tenants facing eviction with legal representation in Housing Court. That same year, the City increased outreach and launched a new housing web portal at nyc.gov/LongLiveNY, to direct tenants to resources to help apply for affordable housing, fight eviction, and freeze their rent. The City also updated the Housing New York 2.0 plan that offers programs, partnerships, and strategies to help finance 300,000 affordable homes so that more families and seniors can afford their rent or buy their first home.

The report also highlights the connection between “redlining” – a historical government-sponsored racist mortgage lending practice – and health inequities that persist today.  Even though redlining was made illegal in the 1960’s, it has contributed to housing instability, inequitable access to health-promoting resources, and unhealthy living conditions. Maps of redlining from the 1930s and health outcomes today show the ongoing legacy of those practices and how they continue to affect low income communities of color today.

The case studies in this year’s TCNY update showcase some of the creative ways that organizations can work towards achieving health equity and improving health outcomes.

Partnerships

The report presents four case studies of organizations working to achieve the goals articulated in TCNY 2020:

·         To Promote Healthy Childhoods, The Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center is running CenteringPregnancy programs, a model of group prenatal care that has been shown to lower preterm birth rates.

·         To Create Healthier Neighborhoods, Make the Road New York is running an Asthma Community Health Worker home-visiting program to help families in Staten Island manage their children’s asthma.

·         To Support Healthy Living, the North Shore Towers, a residential co-op in Queens, implemented a Smoke-Free Housing policy to reduce exposure of second hand smoke in the home.

·         To Increase Access to Quality Care, the New York Harm Reduction Educators are training peer workers with lived experience of substance use to provide harm-reduction services in upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

Along with the case studies in the report, there are short videos showcasing these efforts. These four examples are just a fraction of the work that is advancing TCNY 2020 goals and the many partners across New York City that are working to improve the health of New York City communities.

Take Care New York 2020 (TCNY 2020) 
Launched in 2015, Take Care New York 2020 (PDF) is the City’s blueprint for giving every New Yorker the chance to live a healthier life. Its goal is twofold — to improve every community’s health and to make greater strides in groups with the worst health outcomes, so that the city becomes a more equitable place for everyone. TCNY 2020 aims to promote healthy childhoods, create healthier neighborhoods, support healthy living, and increase access for quality care.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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