Race, Geography, & Access to Health Care

Race, Geography, & Access to Health Care

NYLPI fought against the privatization and closure of New York City’s public hospitals during the fiscal crisis in the 1970s, and works now to ensure that the vital services of public and private hospitals remain available in low-income communities of color. The racial disparities in health in New York City are extreme: African-Americans and other racial minorities have disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, substance abuse, mental illness, asthma, and other chronic illnesses. However, at a time when infant mortality rates for African-Americans are rising, the community of Central Brooklyn lost obstetrics and related services at two important community hospitals.

In response, medically under-served communities of color are fighting back to keep and increase access to health care. In January 2007, NYLPI and co-counsel, Chadbourne & Parke LLP, filed suit against New York State over the state’s plan to close Westchester Square Medical Center in the Bronx and eight other hospitals, as well as restructure about 50 other facilities statewide, as part of the Berger Commission process. Our plaintiffs and community partners in the case, the Concerned Residents Organizations (CRO) and Mechler Hall Senior Center, are both community-based organizations in the Bronx whose members and residents relied heavily upon Westchester Square Medical Center to meet their health care needs. In addition, NYLPI has worked closely with community coalitions in Southeast Queens, Central and East Brooklyn, and Southwest Brooklyn, providing legal and community organizing support to prevent hospital closures in these under-served areas of the city.

Currently, NYLPI is convening a broad, statewide coalition of community partners and health care advocates to establish an effective system for community-based health planning in New York State. The Coalition for Community Health Planning seeks the implementation of a community-based, health planning process that operates at the local, community level and results in the provision of and access to quality health services for medically underserved populations, especially low-income communities, communities of color, immigrant populations, and people with disabilities.

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