A new online tool offers startlingly precise snapshots of public health, as measured by a wide range of metrics, at the neighborhood level through New York City, and yields some surprising findings for Lower Manhattan.
The City Health Dashboard, which was created by a partnership between two arms of New York University — the Langone Medical Center and the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service — shows that Lower Manhattan is, in most ways, healthier than the City as a whole.
In five categories of health outcomes, for example, Downtown scores better than New York generally.
While 10.7 percent of adults throughout the five boroughs have been diagnosed with diabetes, Lower Manhattan’s range runs between 1.9 percent (in the Greenwich South neighborhood) to 7.6 percent in the area surrounding Southbridge Towers.
And although 28.8 percent of New York adults have high blood pressure, the local range is 8.1 percent in the South Street Seaport area, to 24.7 percent for people who live near Southbridge Towers.
Similarly, frequent mental and physical distress (defined as poor mental or physical health for 14 or more days in the prior month) is reported for 12.8 percent and 13.1 percent of all City adults, respectively — but is much less prevalent Downtown. For frequent mental distress, all Lower Manhattan neighborhoods hover between 7.0 and 9.0 percent, while frequent physical distress runs between 4.2 percent for residents in Greenwich South and 8.8 percent in the area near Southbridge Towers.
And obesity (defined as the percentage of adults with a body mass index of 30 or higher) is reported by 24.7 percent of all New York City residents, but only 12.1 percent of people who call the South Street Seaport home, and 16.6 of those who live in western Tribeca, with all other local neighborhoods falling somewhere in between.
For two categories of health behaviors, the local picture is more complicated. While smoking (defined as people who report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and currently smoke at least one each day, or on most days) is less common Downtown than elsewhere, many thousands of area residents still light up. For City residents as a whole, the tally is 16.4 percent, but the local range spans 7.8 percent for southern Battery Park City to 10.0 percent for Southbridge Towers.
And Downtown is considerably less healthy than the City as a whole when it comes to alcohol. The Dashboard’s metric for binge drinking (defined as the consumption of more than four alcoholic drinks on one occasion for adult women, or more than five for adult men) shows that 16.8 percent of New Yorkers imbibe to excess, while the local figures range from 23.9 percent in southern Battery Park City to 31.1 in the southern section of the Financial District. This disparity may be driven by demographics. As the Dashboard’s creator’s note, “binge drinking is especially high among whites, males, adults aged 18-34 years, and those with higher household incomes.”
There is also one aspect of Lower Manhattan’s physical environment strikes a counter-intuitive chord in terms of public health. The Lead Risk index for New York City as a whole (defined as the number of housing units with the potential to expose residents to lead, weighted by the number of local residents living in poverty, and then gauged on a scale of one to ten) is 5.5. Predictably, areas of Lower Manhattan where the housing stock is of recent vintage score well below this benchmark. Battery Park City, for examples, comes in at 1.0, representing the lowest possible risk.
But two areas of Downtown, where older buildings are more common, show a greater level of lead hazard than the City as a whole. They are Greenwich South (with a score of 8.0) and the northern section of the Financial District (with a score of 7.0).
To browse the City Health Dashboard for New York, please visit: www.cityhealthdashboard.com/ny/new%20york/city-view