New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Report: Hamden neighborhoods have wide health-related disparities
HAMDEN — The town’s neighborhoods with the greatest percentage of residents identifying as white have a higher average life expectancy than areas with more residents of color, who are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes, according to a new DataHaven report and 2020 census results.
Some of DataHaven’s analyses, presented in an “equity profile,” apply only to Hamden, while others apply to the Public Use Microdata Area, or PUMA, to which Hamden belongs.
Designated by the U.S. Census Bureau, PUMA encompasses Hamden, Ansonia, Derby, Woodbridge, Bethany and Seymour.
Across those towns, 38 percent of Black residents over age 65 suffer from diabetes as compared to 18 percent of
white residents in the same age group, according to the report.
“These outcomes are by design and that design is racism,” said Dr. Carmen Black, a psychiatry professor at Yale School of Medicine who studies the effect of racial discrimination on patient care.
The findings are based on DataHaven surveys conducted in 2015 and 2018, according to Mark Abraham, the organization’s executive director. He said participants were chosen by randomly selecting phone numbers.
Black said a system of racial prejudices feed into one another to make it harder for people of color to stay healthy.
For example, they are more likely to live in food deserts, Black said, and that’s because “grocery stores weren’t designed to be in our neighborhoods.” A Black individual also is more likely to have a lower paying job and be unable to afford a car, according to Black.
“Stationing the clinics next to public transportation was often not a priority,” she said.
“All of this is by design. … Communities of color did not wake up and do this to ourselves,” Black said. “We don’t wake up overweight. There are multiple systems designed to keep us that way.”
Because of those systems, Black said, the DataHaven report didn’t surprise her.
“It’s absolutely what I expected to see,” she said. “It was terrible. It was abysmal.”
Black and Latino residents of Hamden’s PUMA are more likely to experience health risk factors, according to the report, which shows 38 percent of Black residents and 35 percent of Latino residents suffered from obesity as compared to 28 percent of white residents.
Nineteen percent of Latino residents, 14 percent of Black residents and 11 percent of white residents faced food insecurity, the report finds.
At 10 percent, smoking rates were lowest among Latino residents. At 18 percent, they were highest among Black residents.
While the DataHaven report compiles data from multiple sources, these statistics come from the organization’s 2015 and 2018 surveys.
Other DataHaven analyses break down other outcomes based on census tracts, geographical areas that have between 1,000 and 8,000 residents. For one neighborhood in the middle of southern Hamden, west of Dixwell Avenue but set back from the New Haven line, the average life expectancy in 2015 was between 75.3 and 77.1 years.
That’s lower than any other tract in town, and according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 39 percent of the tract’s population identified as Black residents in 2020, while 21 percent identified as Hispanic and 31 percent identified as white.
Meanwhile, northern Hamden census tracts, which are majority white, had the highest average life expectancy at between 81.6 and 83.5 years. (Data for the northeastern-most census tract was not available.)
Abraham, DataHaven’s executive director, said the organization compiled the equity profiles because of local demand.
“For a long time people have been asking us for data … broken up by race/ethnicity for their town,” he said. “It’s usually just not available.”
Some towns have created commissions on racism and are seeking data to help make policy decisions, according to Abraham.
“That’s why we thought it was such an important project,” he said, noting reports are available for all of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
The New Haven Register asked Hamden’s three mayoral candidates about their plans for addressing the issues evident in the report. Lauren Garrett, who won the Democratic primary Tuesday, and Ron Gambardella, who was endorsed by the GOP, submitted written responses.
Noting “there is not a large grocery store in Southern Hamden that stocks affordable healthy food,” Garrett wrote, “economic development that includes a grocery store for Southern Hamden and infrastructure that supports walking and biking will improve health disparities.”
She also suggested increasing community health programs by renovating the Keefe Community Center to include a “small room for physical exams, vaccine distribution, or other health supports,” then partnering with university health science students and the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center to offer “blood pressure screenings, diabetes screenings and provide translation support for our growing Latino population.”
Garrett also said she would pursue improvements to outdoor resources in southern Hamden, “planting more trees to reduce heat islands and working with the state DEEP and community advocates to remediate and open Olin Powder Farm/Six Lakes to provide access to exercise and fresh air,” she said.
Gambardella said he would come up with a communications plan to inform residents about the resources available for underserved populations. He then would “identify any barriers that may be getting in the way of an individual seeking medical advice such as lack of transportation” and explore solutions such as arranging public transportation or even using apps such as Uber.
He recommended using “local community centers for a once-a-month health clinic opportunity where community minded doctors can triage patients at little to no cost.”
Gambardella pointed out another disparity reflected in the report: Black residents in New Haven County were more than 10 times as likely than white residents to be diagnosed with HIV between 2016 and 2018. The candidate advocated for improving education about sexually-transmitted infections and said he would “get as many eyes and hands on solution driven policies including grants, public health and prevention programming.”
Albert Lotto, who is running as an Independent, was unable to respond.