Community Health Profiles Show Disparity Between New York City Neighborhoods

In Brooklyn's impoverished Brownsville neighborhood, the average person can expect to live to 74. Six miles away in lower Manhattan's financial district, life expectancy is more than 11 years longer.

The nation's biggest city is taking close-up snapshots of the state of health in its neighborhoods, highlighting disparities that officials say show being healthy isn't just about individual biology.

"We will be making injustice visible," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said Wednesday while starting to release a series of community health profiles.

Click here to see your neighborhood health profile. 

They update and expand 9-year-old, neighborhood-level data used by policymakers, community activists and researchers. After reports covering Brooklyn were aired Wednesday, Borough President Eric Adams called for a "treatment plan" for each neighborhood.

Full profiles of other areas are due to be released in the next few weeks, though officials have already announced a smattering of findings from other neighborhoods.

For the first time, the reports look beyond such traditional health measures as infant mortality and stroke hospitalization rates to broader measures of community well-being. They include housing quality, incarceration rates, school absenteeism and even the square footage devoted to supermarkets.

In part, that's because a moldy, crumbling apartment could factor in respiratory problems or injuries, and the prevalence of supermarkets can reflect the availability of fresh produce. But in a city where the administration has made addressing income inequality its top cause, Bassett also argues that the health data reflect "longstanding and rising income inequality and the history of racial residential segregation."

"The variation is not only in individual decision-making and choosing to live healthfully, but also in the opportunities to live healthily," she said, noting that even air-pollution levels differ from one neighborhood to another.

Overall, New York City boasts life expectancy above the national average, and Bassett said the city is "getting healthier and healthier."

But the health profiles of Brownsville and prosperous Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, for instance, illustrate stark differences, along with important similarities.

In Brownsville, where 37 percent of people live in poverty, eight of every 1,000 newborns don't live to celebrate their first birthday. About one-third of adults are obese.

In Park Slope, where the poverty rate is 11 percent, about 2 of every 1,000 infants die. Just over 1 out of 10 adults is obese, and life expectancy tops 80 years.

Brownsville has about twice the teen birth rate, three times the poverty rate, nearly four times the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations and over five times the rates of new HIV infections and assault-related hospitalizations that Park Slope has. But Brownsville also has more supermarket space, on a per-capita basis.

And in both communities, the top killers are the same: heart disease and cancer, by far.

In both, people feel pretty well. More than 80 percent rate their health as "good," ''very good," or even "excellent."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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