By Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy
At Care for the Homeless, New York City’s largest provider of healthcare exclusively to homeless people of all ages, we’re always watching public health statistics and city health policy. So we were pleased to see the city report a new record low infant mortality rate of 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births (for calendar year 2013) – which the city reports is down 24.6% since 2004. New York City’s improved infant mortality rate is well better than the national average, as is New York City’s age average life expectancy both for men and women. Which is great.
But the figures also show a great disparity by race. The mortality rate for black infants is 8.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, more than two-and-a-half times the rate for white infants. The same kin d of disparities exist by neighborhood with the city’s poorest areas (like East New York at 8.4) having far more troubling infant mortality rates than more affluent areas (like Park Slope at 1.9).
Every year, on about the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, Care for the Homeless and advocates for people experiencing homelessness across North America observe Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in part to recognize the incredible health disparities experienced by unstably housed people. Studies show an age adjusted life expectancy for chronically homeless people of between 30 and 40 years lower than for those stably housed.
We celebrate our city’s overall health improvements measured by metrics like a lower infant mortality rate and an annually growing life expectancy. But like city government, our goal is to spread our improving public health outcomes to all New Yorkers regardless of income, class, geography or condition of housing. That’s why our daily mission in 33 health clinics and our mobile health clinic as well as through our street medical teams is to provide high-quality and client centered health care to any New Yorker without stable housing.