What do you think is the greatest predictor of health? Is it weight? zip code? cholesterol level? age?
If you guessed zip code, you guessed correctly.
In New York City, there are some stark health disparities by race, income and immigration status across different neighborhoods. Life expectancy in Brownsville, Brooklyn is 11 years less than for residents in Stuyvesant Town and Turtle Bay. In Jackson Heights, Queens, over 22% of residents do not have health insurance compared to 4% on the Upper East Side. Black women in NYC are 12 times more likely to die of complications related to childbirth than White women.
Health disparities refer to differences in health outcomes that are closely correlated with economic, social, or environmental disadvantages. According to NYC Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, “Poor health outcomes tend to cluster in places that people of color call home and where many residents live in poverty.” This is especially evident in NYC which remains one of the world’s most segregated and unequal cities. On the Upper East Side, which is 79% White, 2% of children live below the poverty line. Just a few blocks away, north of 96th Street, where 50% of the population is Hispanic and 31% is non-Hispanic Black, more than 50% of children live in poverty.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2017, students from UNIS and KIPP College Prep in the Bronx investigated health disparities in New York City. They trained with human rights experts, photographers, journalists and theatre instructors. They met with public health experts at the Health Equity Initiative and travelled to different zip codes throughout New York City to investigate health disparities. They heard from activists at WE ACT for Environmental Justice in West Harlem and community health workers at a.i.r. nyc in the Bronx working to address asthma disparities, doctors at Grameen VidaSana in Jackson Heights providing care to undocumented and uninsured women, violence interrupters from the Queensbridge 696 Cure Violence Program who treat violence as a public health issue as opposed to a criminal justice issue and academics from John Jay College of Criminal Justice who study the program. They also heard from doctors from the NYC Coalition to Dismantle Racism in the Health System and critically examined media coverage of Obamacare at Democracy Now! They toured the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, met with experts from the Vera Institute of Justice on substance abuse and mental health and heard personal stories of how opioid addiction has impacted members of our own community.
On September 14th, 2017, students were invited to present their photo essays in a youth photography panel at Photoville in Dumbo, Brooklyn. On September 20th, they presented at UNIS UN Day. Click here to view the presentation.
On February 24th, 2018, participants held a public symposium at UNIS that featured student presentations, workshops led by community health groups, and a student-devised theatre production on health disparities in NYC. Click here to learn more.
The culmination of this project was a photo exhibit called "In Sickness and in Wealth."
Summer 2017 UNIS Human Rights Project