Study Finds Gaps in Health Outcomes in New York Metropolitan Region

NEW YORK – Regional Plan Association today released a study, State of the Region’s Health, which takes stock of the metropolitan region’s public health and compares its key health metrics with other urban areas. The study shows how New York’s walkable neighborhoods and robust transit network provide health advantages that other regions around the nation lack. But it also reveals significant disparities in health among different parts of the New York region.

Residents in poorer counties in both urban areas such as the Bronx and rural areas in the Hudson Valley have much lower life expectancy than those in wealthier counties. The report also reveals inequalities in health: Hispanic children, for example, are twice as likely to live in areas with high air pollution as white children.

The study focuses on how the urban setting, especially transportation, housing and environmental factors such as pollution and open space, influence health outcomes. Some 80% of health outcomes are influenced by things other than health care, such as income, education, neighborhood walkability, pollution and access to social services.

The study is part of an RPA initiative supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine how health goals can be integrated nationwide into urban planning decisions. The project is a component  of RPA’s fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, which will be released in 2017. The full State of the Region's Health report can be viewed here:

“For too long, we have failed to appreciate that problems such as high housing costs, segregation and inadequate public transit can have a tremendous impact on health,” said Tom Wright, President, Regional  Plan Association. “We know that we’re facing a future where our population will be older, technological change will reshape our economy and our communities will confront more threats from climate change. It’s imperative that urban planners and health professionals work together to address these challenges and ensure the success of our communities.”

“This project is an exciting first step in identifying how health considerations can be integrated into urban planning decisions,” said Mandu Sen, RPA senior planner and lead author of the study. "Major metropolitan areas will have to make significant investments in their infrastructure in the coming years, and maximizing the health benefits of these plans will help build a foundation for the well-being of all Americans.”

“This report is a must-read for those work in transportation, housing, energy, economic development, education, health care and public health in the region, whether in the private or the public sector,” said David Siscovick, Senior Vice President for Research, the New York Academy of Medicine. “It provides a compelling rationale for the integration of health into RPA’s fourth regional plan.”

“The report provides a critically important analysis of the baseline health status of residents within our region,” said Jeanne Herb, Associate Director, Environmental Analysis and Communications Group, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers. “Equally important, it identifies opportunities to improve health outcomes through strategies that address underlying social factors that influence health including land use, housing, and poverty.”

As part of the project, RPA held a panel discussion today at the WNYC Greene Space. The event, moderated by Mary Harris, the host and managing editor of WNYC program Only Human, featured a discussion on how buildings, streets, housing, transportation systems, parks, access to jobs and other aspects of the physical environment affect health, and how urban planning can be used to improve health outcomes. Panelists included: Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, President, the New York Academy of Medicine; Daniel Hernandez, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Housing Preservation & Development; and Walter Barrientos, Lead Organizer, Make the Road New York.


Regional Plan Association is America’s most distinguished independent urban research and advocacy organization. RPA improves the New York metropolitan region's economic health, environmental sustainability and quality of life through research, planning and advocacy. Since the 1920s, RPA has produced three landmark plans for the region and is working on a fourth plan that will tackle challenges related to sustained economic growth and opportunity, climate change, infrastructure and the fiscal health of our state and local governments. For more information, please visit


For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at