NYC Health Department Highlights Efforts to Tackle Disparities

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Despite steady progress in closing racial health gaps, disparities still plague New York City. Black men die from AIDS at six times the rate of white men, and mortality among black infants is double that of whites. In honor of Black History Month, the Health Department today reasserted its commitment to advancing health equity in New York City.

"Our city is getting healthier overall, but differences along racial and economic lines are still large and unacceptable," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "All New Yorkers should have access to the same preventive services, care, and resources that they need to be healthy."

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"These unfair racial differences in health are social and economic in origin, not genetic," said Dr. Mary Bassett, Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. "These gaps often reflect higher rates of poverty, with all its disadvantages, among blacks as compared to whites."

The heart of the Health Department's response to disparities is a neighborhood-level effort to address the underlying causes and work directly with community and faith-based organizations, doctors, neighborhood businesses and community leaders. The Health Department established district health offices in 2003 in the South Bronx, East/Central Harlem and North/Central Brooklyn, all largely Black and Hispanic communities with high poverty rates as well as the highest rates of preventable illness and death. These communities often lack key health services, access to healthy food, open space and other resources that keep people in poverty and poor health.

"Health flows from the social and economic fabric of our communities," said Dr. Adam Karpati, Assistant Commissioner for the Brooklyn District Public Health Office. "Whether we're promoting fresh fruit or funding affordable clinics, our goal is the same: to create environments where good health will flourish."

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