New York City health officials say a new initiative will look to address health disparities among the city's lower-income and minority populations by addressing health risk factors known to lead to the development of chronic disease.
Speaking before members of the New York City Council earlier this week, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett announced plans to launch a new Center for Health Equity, a $3.2 million initiative focused on narrowing the health gap within poorer communities.
As part of that plan, the center will pilot a Community Health Worker program where health department employees help residents in public housing manage their chronic conditions in hopes that doing so will reduce the need for medical utilization.
“We must exert sustained political will to reallocate and sustain resources for our health systems, giving priority to those most in need and ensuring equal access to good health and the promotion of healthy communities,” Bassett testified
Many have come to view New York as a city at the forefront of public health
policy, thanks in large part to the attention the issue received during the time former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in office. His administration gained national recognition for such health regulatory initiatives as bans on smoking and use of electronic cigarettes in public areas, as well as a proposed limit on the sale of sweetened drinks to no more than 16 ounce containers.
Despite those efforts, health disparities along racial, social and economic lines have persisted. Death rates among black New Yorkers are the highest among any racial group in both poor and wealthy neighborhoods, a 2010 NYC Department of Health report found
. Blacks had a mortality rate that was 25% higher than whites in poor neighborhoods; in wealthier ones, it was 16% higher than whites. Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson