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Stats show overall health improvements for city, high poverty neighborhoods still struggling

While life expectancy is at a high, and infant mortality rates for New Yorkers are at a historic low, according to data released in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Summary of Vital Statistics, health disparities between neighborhoods continue to plague the city.

The summary includes highlights like Borough Park topping the charts in birth rates with 27.4 births per 1,000 people – comparatively, Bayside, Queens had the lowest rate with 5.7 per 1,000.

In addition, according to the survey, life expectancy at birth was 81.1 years in 2013, a two year and one month increase since 2004. However, the difference in life expectancy in very high poverty neighborhoods compared to low poverty neighborhoods rose to 7.4 in 2013, compared to 5.8 in 2005, indicative of a widening health disparity. For 2013, Brownsville had the lowest life expectancy in the city (74.4 years) while Battery Park/Tribeca topped city stats with 85.9 years.

“This vital statistics report contains some great news,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Health. “The rise in life expectancies and declines in premature mortality are cause for celebration. However, the continued disparities among communities highlight how much more work we have to do.”

Citywide efforts to maintain the city’s health stats and combat the disparities have been underway.

In 2015, the de Blasio administration unveiled OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City with the goal of ensuring that all New Yorkers live a long and healthy life. The plan maintains that “premature mortality is closely tied to poverty,” which DOHMH data backs up – the age-adjusted premature mortality rate being 2.5 times greater in poverty-stricken neighborhoods  than in neighborhoods with low poverty in 2014.

Additionally, in 2015, DOHMH launched Take Care New York, a comprehensive health blueprint that identifies key areas for health improvement and for advancing health equity.

“Long-term improvements in life expectancy and premature mortality mask the reality of long-standing inequity in New York City’s communities of color – inequity which has been driven by a legacy of persistent injustice,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “This report once again confirms that critical work must be done to reverse the continuing and, in some cases, widening health disparities between New York City’s poor and rich neighborhoods.”

Other important numbers outlined in the report include the three leading causes of premature death in 2014: cancer, heart disease, and drug use/poisoning . Since 2005, death rates for all three leading causes of accidental deaths – unintended drug overdoses, falls and motor vehicle-related accidents – have declined overall. For the third year in a row, Alzheimer’s disease surpassed HIV on the list of the top 10 causes of death overall.

“It’s important that New Yorkers’ life expectancy continues to increase, and overall death and premature mortality rates keep declining,” said Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Committee on Health. “At the same time, the Health Department’s statistics show that poorer New Yorkers continue to suffer from health disparities, lending renewed urgency to the de Blasio administration’s focus on alleviating inequality throughout our city.”

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