2004-01-23 / Community

Health In The Rockaways And Broad Channel

Part One Of A Five-Part Series
Health In The Rockaways And Broad Channel Part One Of A Five-Part Series

The latest profile released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ranks Rockaway and Broad Channel as two of the least healthy neighborhoods in New York City. But is the picture as bleak as it appears?

Over the next several weeks The Wave’s Health In the Rockaways series will try to put the Health Department’s profile into context by talking with numerous local sources in the medical community.

Much of the information cited by the Health Department ranks the Rockaways below city averages in various categories – here is some of what was said:

"People living in the Rockaways have a heavy burden of illness and mortality," the profile says. In terms
of general health, maternal health
and chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes and lung disease) Rockaway ranks below average – among the ten worst neighborhoods, out of a total
of 42.

About one in every six Rockaway adults smoke, and about 25 percent of residents are either obese or report getting no exercise. Rockaway has more obese residents when compared to other neighborhoods, but has fewer smokers and more active residents.

The Rockaways fall within the average in terms of infectious disease (pneumonia, influenza and HIV/ AIDS), prevention (cancer screening, etc.) and access to medical care, according to our "Report Card on Health." The peninsula was not rated above average in any of the grading categories.

By far the number one killer in Rockaway for the year 2001 was heart disease – but it was also the biggest killer nationwide. What some may find startling is that, when compared to the rest of the city, the death rate was 90 percent higher for Rockaway residents. Stroke and chronic lung disease were also much higher.

The number one factor that contributes to heart disease risk and can dramatically reduce your chances of being at risk – cigarette smoking. "Smoking is, by far, the leading preventable cause of these illnesses," the profile concludes.

Other elective behaviors are also negatively affecting our health. The Health Department says they know of nearly 550 people living with HIV/ AIDS in Rockaway – including 70 new cases reported in 2001. The department says, "Many adults in the Rockaways are at high risk for HIV infection," because about 4 percent report engaging in high-risk activities such as injecting illegal drugs, having unprotected sex or prostitution. If you already have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) you’re more likely to contract the deadly virus.

And while most of the above maladies are associated with adults, Rockaway’s children fare no better. The peninsula exceeds the city and far exceeds the national goal in the three indicators the Health Department says are most important: women receiving late or no prenatal care, babies born with low birth weight and infant mortality.

Rockaway’s children, age 14 and younger, are more likely to suffer from asthma – a leading cause of missed school days. But children here, under the age of 18, are less likely to suffer lead poisoning, which can cause neurological, learning and behavioral problems.

The profile offers a demographic breakdown of the area. The Rock­aways are home to about 107,000 people, according to the Health De­part­ment. Rockaway has more children and older adults when compared to the rest of the city. Adults, age 18-64, make up 57 percent of Rockaway’s population whereas the city average is closer to 65 percent.

In terms of race/ethnicity Rock­away is mostly African American or white.

Rockaway has about the same num­­ber of white residents, but about 15 percent more African Amer­icans when compared to the rest of the city. The peninsula is home to far less Asians and His­panics than other city neighborhoods. About 25 percent of Rock­away residents are foreign born.

Next week: Health In the Rock­aways continues with a report from Contributing Editor Miriam Rosen­ berg.

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