The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among adults in New York City is 9.7%; the nationwide prevalence is 8.3%.
In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded the Fund for Public Health in New York a five-year grant to launch the New York City Strategic Alliance for Health (NYC SAfH). NYC SAfH leverages the bold initiatives of the NYC Health Department and its partners throughout New York City and New York State to promote physical activity through pilot projects and improve nutrition by advocating for increased access to healthy foods in four target communities. North and Central Brooklyn, East and Central Harlem, Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx exhibit the greatest disparities in diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in relation to the city at large. While these areas have multiple barriers on the road to better public health, they also have significant assets: a variety of active coalitions, promising initiatives, and creative and culturally appropriate approaches to addressing health challenges. Best practices identified through this project will be documented to disseminate to other NYC neighborhoods with persistent health inequities that are seeking similar interventions.
NYC SAFH developed a Community Action Plan (CAP) comprised of several school and community-based interventions that promote physical activity and healthy eating, and/or reduce access to unhealthy food choices. CAP interventions focus on policy, system and environmental changes to make underserved neighborhoods a healthier place to work, learn and live. Specific interventions include: the adoption of a city-wide policy that would establish one process for approving community “PlayStreets” or open streets without cars; seek support and approval of the NYC SAfH Excellence in School Wellness Award, which creates a mechanism for all elementary schools to make public their schools’ adherence to nutrition, physical education and wellness policies; and identify potential locations for the city’s FRESH initiative which identifies good locations for supermarkets and/or corners stores that can sell fresh produce in areas with limited access to healthy food. With these and many other activities joining in a productive alliance, the NYC SAfH agenda has the potential to reduce health disparities in NYC’s neighborhoods hardest hit by obesity and to serve as a model for urban districts nationwide.