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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

CUNY Works to Improve Health Outcomes for New Yorkers

The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute released a report taking stock of changes in food policy in New York City since 2008.

For more than a century, New York City has used the authority of municipal government to make healthy food more available for all city residents. In the last decade, the city’s Mayors and City Council have launched dozens of new initiatives to prevent diet-related diseases, reduce food insecurity and create a more sustainable urban food system.

These successes are tempered by significant shortcomings. New York City still lacks a comprehensive food plan with specific measurable goals. In the 20 public reports reviewed in the paper, elected officials made 420 specific recommendations for improvements in food policy, far too many for anyone to monitor. Critical health and social outcomes have barely budged in the last decade and the class and racial/ethnic gaps have persisted.

To address these shortcomings, the report made recommendations, including launching a five to 10 year strategic plan for New York City food policy, and identifying outcomes and metrics that can be used to monitor the plan.

“With these steps, New York City can translate the new attention on municipal food policy into measurable improvements in the well-being of its residents,” said Dr. Nick Freudenberg, distinguished professor and director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.

Healthy CUNY, a university-wide initiative to support health and academic success for CUNY students, released a report documenting the university’s resources, challenges and opportunities to improve the academic success of its students by taking on the health and social problems that can block academic success and graduation.

The report outlines some of the grave health challenges facing CUNY students, such as depression and anxiety, intimate partner violence, food insecurity, and lack of access to health care services. It also highlights some of the resources CUNY provides to ameliorate those challenges, such as mental health centers, wellness and health services, food pantries and student peer programs.

The report also makes recommendations, including to sponsor research, evaluation and quality improvement studies to aid in improving services and to establish partnerships with health care and social service providers to dispense the range of services needed to meet students’ health and social needs.

The CUNY Center for Systems and Community Design is working with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) on the Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces Study (PARCS), a first-of-its-kind, multi-year project working with community residents across all five boroughs to assess the relationship between community environment and health.

The study utilizes the latest mobile health technology to assess park use, physical activity, and a range of psychosocial and community wellbeing outcomes. Results from the study will yield critical insights to inform future community design policies and practices.

NYC Parks has identified 134 parks with extreme capital needs in high-priority neighborhoods and will begin renovating parks in waves. In late 2016, the first wave of 35 parks across 55 neighborhoods closed for renovations; reopening in late 2017. From this initial wave, 20 intervention parks were selected for inclusion in the study. Intervention park neighborhoods were matched to a control group of 20 socio-economically similar park neighborhoods that would not be renovated during the study. Using state-of-the-art health technologies such as accelerometers and app-based GPS monitoring, the investigators compared total volume of physical activity and other health outcomes among residents in the intervention vs. control park neighborhoods (defined as .25 mile radius around each park) from baseline to 2.5 years post-renovation. Researchers hypothesize that improvements will be observed in physical activity and health levels in intervention but not control neighborhoods.