“Where we live shouldn’t determine how long or how well we live.”
“In our communities, we all should be surrounded by conditions that enable us to live the healthiest life possible, such as access to healthy food, quality schools, stable housing, good jobs with fair pay, and safe places to exercise and play. Unfortunately, in many communities, there are persistent barriers to health and opportunity to thrive. …Factors such as our race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status should not play a role in how healthy we are or how long we live. Unfortunately, for many of us, they do.” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2018).
In Sullivan County, as in other places, low income usually affects the ability to live in dignified housing, the ability to pay utility and heating bills, to own a reliable car (essential for rural living), to afford enough to eat, to be able to afford medical appointment copays and deductibles, and more. And even with the Affordable Care Act making it possible for low income people to purchase affordable health insurance, dental insurance for adults remains expensive and unaffordable for many.
According to the New York State Community Action Association’s 2018 New York State Poverty Report, Sullivan County‘s poverty rate is 17.5% of all residents combined compared to 15.5% of all New Yorkers living in poverty. But that is only part of the story. As you can see from the chart, Sullivan County African-American residents are more than twice as likely to be poor as White residents, while Latino residents are almost twice as likely.
When people’s lives are impacted by poverty, day to day survival can be a struggle and essentials for good mental and physical health like exercise, leisure and enjoyment can seem like luxuries.
Mental and physical health are adversely impacted by the stress of poverty and by the stress, in some cases, of racism or prejudice in everyday life (for example, not being called in for a job interview because the last name on the application is Latin sounding, being followed by security staff while shopping because of one’s race, or not being hired after a job interview because the person has disclosed he or she is LGBT during the interview).
These charts and tables are shocking and display a disparity in Sullivan County caused largely by poverty, lack of opportunity, structural racism and more. These differences are not unique to Sullivan County, and are, in fact, common throughout the United States.
The GOOD news is that, these disparities do not have to be permanent. Sullivan 180 with our countywide partners are committed to ensuring that everyone, no matter who they are, can enjoy health and happiness at the same level as their fellow county residents.
As the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states in their HI-5 or “Health Impact in 5 Years” Document: Programs that address the conditions in the places where we live, learn, work and play have the greatest potential for keeping people healthy. Below are some recommended and proven non-clinical interventions from that document:
Social Determinants of Health (addresses the conditions in the community)
Early childhood education
Clean diesel bus fleets
Home Improvement loans and grants,
Earned income tax credits, and
Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice (changes the content to make healthy choices easier)
School-based programs to increase physical activity
School-based violence prevention
Safe routes to school
Motorcycle injury prevention
Tobacco control interventions
Access to clean syringes
Pricing strategies for alcohol products
Multi-component worksite obesity prevention