2007-10-05 / Community

Report:Rockaway Leads City In Heart Failure,Diabetes Deaths

By Miriam Rosenberg

According to a new health report from the city's comptroller, Rockaway leads the city in deaths due to heart disease and diabetes, as well as in asthma hospitalizations.

That is the finding by Comptroller William C. Thompson in a recently released policy report "Health and Wealth: Assessing and Addressing Income Disparities in the Health of New Yorkers."

"Simply stated, providing primary and preventive care saves lives and money, and is key to reducing disparities," Thompson said. "Research studies have firmly established a positive correlation between the availability and utilization of primary and preventive health care in a neighborhood and the health of a neighborhood's residents."

The document shows that the Rockaways lags behind other neighborhoods in several areas.

"I can't say it [Rockaway] is worse off than other areas, but it has the highest asthma, heart disease and diabetes rates," said Ebony Meeks, a representative for Thompson.

Although the number of deaths from heart disease in Rockaway has declined by more than 113 percent between 1990 and 2005, the area has the highest rate in the city. Thompson's report showed Rockaway with 476.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2005.

Only six neighborhoods in the city had more than 350 deaths per 100,000 population due to heart disease in 2005. They were all four neighborhoods surveyed in Staten Island and Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant/Crown Heights. Rockaway was the only area to go over 400 percent heart deaths per 100,000 population.

The statistics for the Rockaways also outpaced other low-income neighborhoods such as Hunts Point-Mott Haven, Highbridge-Morrisania, East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant- Crown Heights.

"Increases in heart disease hospitalization rates do not appear to be ending or disparities narrowing," said Thompson, adding that for 23 of the 42 neighborhoods in the report, including all but one of the low-income neighborhoods, the highest rate since 1990 was in either 2004 or 2005.

In a series of articles published in early 2004, The Wave reported on the neighborhood health report card for Rockaway issued by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at the end of 2003.

At that time the report card showed that, in 2001, the number one killer in Rockaway, and nation-wide, was heart disease. The rate of deaths related to heart disease, was 90 percent higher on the peninsula than in the rest of the city.

In 2001, Rockaway's asthma hospitalization rates for children 14 and under were higher than citywide statistics.

Thompson's report shows that these hospitalization rates fell dramatically throughout the city between 1995 and 2005, with low-income neighborhoods accounting for most of the decrease. Yet, in 2005 Rockaway led all neighborhoods in the borough with 790 cases per 100,000 people and a rise in childhood asthma rates of more than 210 percent between 1990 and 2005. During that 10-year period, seven of the other Queens neighborhoods surveyed saw decreases. Of the two areas that experienced an upturn, the highest increase was 69.6 percent per 100,000 population.

"The reduction in childhood [ages 0 to 17] asthma hospitalization rates in New York City has been remarkable," said Thompson. "The New York City decrease has far exceeded the national decrease."

Yet, the comptroller pointed out that some low-income neighborhoods, such as city leader East Harlem, see far more cases then wealthier communities.

Asthma, according to the 2001 report, is a leading cause of missed school days and hospitalizations for New York City's children, but it can be controlled.

"Good medical management of asthma can prevent many hospitalizations, and patients can work with health care providers to better control their asthma," it was reported in a 2006 follow up to the Health Department report card. "Thus, the asthma hospitalization rates can also indicate poor access to health care."

The 2006 report also showed adult asthma hospitalization in the Rockaways declined by almost 50 percent from 1995 to 2004.

Thompson's report shows Type 2, or adult onset diabetes, has gone up city and nation-wide. With the increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths have also risen.

"The trend toward higher diabetes hospital rates in lower income communities does not appear to be abating," Thompson said. "In each year from 2000 to 2005, the diabetes hospitalization rate in low-income neighborhoods was higher than the year before."

During that time, Rockaway's hospitalization rate rose by 29 percent. Between 1990 and 2005 it went up by almost 84 percent per 100,000 population.

Nine of 10 Queens neighborhoods in the report had a rise in the number of deaths from diabetes. Rockaway again led the way. From 1990 to 2005, diabetes deaths increased by 344.9 percent, or 26.9 more cases per 100,000 in population. In four other neighborhoods in the city the diabetes death rate rose by more than 175 percent during that time, but none came close to Rockaway's increase.

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