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Report: NY's Severe Housing Issues Impact Public Health


Tuesday, December 28, 2021   

A new report provides a checkup on the health of people in New York and across the country, to help officials improve outcomes in their states.

One takeaway from the United Health Foundation is how affordable housing is connected to New Yorkers' public health. The research found the pandemic has contributed to an uptick in deaths nationwide between 2019 and 2020, and New York leads with a 29% increase.

Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said the lack of affordable housing on Long Island led to people spreading the virus more quickly in crowded homes.

"We had lots and lots of folks leaving hospitals, going back home and being told to quarantine for 10 days, who shared one bathroom with three families, where that was an absolute impossibility just from a structural perspective of their lives," Sanin explained. "It benefits everybody when there are affordable options for folks."

The report ranks New York 50th, or last in the nation, for racial residential segregation as well as for the percentage of housing stock with lead-contamination risk. On a positive note, New York got high ratings for access to clinical care, with more than 300 primary care providers per 100,000 people.

The isolation of the pandemic has had an outsized impact on mental health, with the number of New Yorkers reporting mental distress increasing by 8% between 2019 and 2020.

Ravi Johar, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, emphasized it is important for people to recognize and seek help for their mental-health concerns.

"Being able to have a support system, talking to friends, and finding a way to be socially active really, really makes a big difference in your mental well-being," Johar pointed out. "And we know that mental well-being has an immense effect on physical well-being, too."

The report ranks New York ninth in the nation for overall health outcomes, including low rates of premature death and obesity. The state has also seen a large increase in the number of young people who received all doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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