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Report uncovers health risks and health intervention opportunities in Jackson Heights, Corona, and Jamaica, Queens

[NEW YORK, NY – April 11, 2018] Convenient access to countless food options is a hallmark of New York City—but in Queens, the prevalence of food swamps, or areas where unhealthy food outlets outnumber healthy alternatives, means certain communities have limited access to healthy food choices, according to a new report from Public Health Solutions, the largest public health nonprofit serving New York City. The rise of food swamps in Queens exemplifies the persistent health disparities that plague underserved communities across the city and impede their ability to achieve optimal health.

“This report uncovers a major gap in access to healthy food across three Queens neighborhoods, shedding light on a prevalent, yet unexplored issue,” said Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions. “When we think about the avenues for achieving health and wellness, we don’t often take into consideration the health disparities that are built into the geographic areas in which we live. We take for granted that healthy food options—even those as basic as supermarkets—are available and accessible; but this isn’t the reality for many New Yorkers.”

Access to healthy food is a social determinant of health and supports healthy, thriving communities. While there is no shortage of food options in Jackson Heights, Corona, and Jamaica, with this report identifying food outlets as the most prevalent type of site in each neighborhood, those carrying fresh produce were limited and outnumbered. With only one supermarket for every five fast-food restaurants and six corner stores, these neighborhoods face compromised health outcomes for their residents. To address this pressing issue and promote health locally, the report suggests collaborating with corner stores and other food vendors to increase their offerings of fresh produce.

Beyond food swamps, the report also uncovers a high volume of vacant lots and beauty salons in each neighborhood—highlighting both threats to community health and opportunities for improvement. Vacant lots are associated with higher levels of crime and can negatively impact the health and safety of residents. However, the report also highlights their unique potential for community betterment, such as when transformed into community gardens. Making up 19 percent of all recorded sites, beauty salons and other personal care storefronts also have the potential to foster community health. Engaging salons and their employees to serve as local health advocates can enable them to play a crucial role in distributing health information and raising awareness about public health resources.

“Laying the ground work for thriving and healthy communities across New York City requires a multi-pronged approach: first, identifying and bringing awareness to local issues, and second, working with communities to develop impactful solutions,” said Sabrina Baronberg, senior director of food and nutrition programs at Public Health Solutions. “This report provides a key resource for understanding what additional public health support is needed for residents in Jackson Heights, Corona, and Jamaica, and outlines ways in which we can engage with local businesses to improve health outcomes.”

This report reflects the key findings of a mapping project designed by Public Health Solutions to develop a stronger understanding of existing health-related services available in select Queens communities and to determine what additional support is needed for borough residents. The project involved geocoding and categorizing existing services in Jackson Heights, Corona, and Jamaica, Queens. A total of 3,661 sites across the three neighborhoods were evaluated, with data gathered in the summer and fall of 2014 by eight trained data collectors.

About Public Health Solutions

Public Health Solutions (PHS) is the largest public health nonprofit serving New York City. For over 60 years, PHS has improved health outcomes and helped families thrive by providing services directly to the city’s most vulnerable populations, publishing groundbreaking research that moves public health policy and practice forward, and supporting over 200 community-based organizations through our long-standing government partnerships. We are a leader in addressing crucial public health issues, including food and nutrition, health insurance access, maternal and child health, reproductive health, tobacco control, and HIV/AIDS prevention. PHS has a strong focus on health equity to ensure NYC families have the basics for a healthier life.

 

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