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Building Healthy Communities | East Harlem

East Harlem, also known as El Barrio, was a welcoming community to Latinos and other immigrant communities for most of the 20th century—from Italians to Puerto Ricans to Dominicans, and most recently, to Mexicans and Chinese. In the 1950s and 60s, urban renewal efforts led to a concentration of poverty in this neighborhood. East Harlem now has the second-highest concentration of public housing in the United States. Overlapping issues of poor health outcomes, high unemployment, and other social determinants of health have threatened the vibrancy of this community. Neighborhood advocates, Harlem residents, and the Harlem District Public Health Office are working hard to improve the health of and increase opportunities for advancement for East Harlem residents.

Grantee NameFund for Public Health in New York
Project Title: East Harlem Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative
Grant Amount: $600,000


  • The median income in East Harlem is $33,500.
  • 31% of residents live below the federal poverty level.
  • 44.2% of children live in poverty.
  • The unemployment rate in East Harlem is 12%.
  • The obesity rate is 33%.
  • The smoking rate is 19%.
  • The diabetes rate is 13%.


  • Increase access to fresh, affordable produce (wholesale and retail);
  • Enhance the physical environment to be responsive to the community’s needs and conducive to a healthy lifestyle;
  • Improve visibility and increase use of existing neighborhood resources for physical activity; and
  • Increase income and opportunities for economic mobility for residents.


  • Launched a Fresh Food Box program and distributed 2,269 food boxes (approximately 25,729 pounds of food) to community residents; and
  • Launched a healthy restaurant program, highlighting healthy offerings and low-calorie options.
  • Developed a set of goals, designed a path, and created and tested a street assessment tool for the East Harlem Community Walking Trail;
  • Conducted street intercept surveys and street assessments along the Walking Trail;
  • Connected community groups to funding to activate the Walking Trail and other open and public spaces;
  • Hosted discussion sessions with residents on improving pedestrian safety and their walking experience; and
  • Organized bilingual (English and Spanish) Shape Up NYC fitness instructor trainings.
  • Led workshops contributing to the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, which will inform the City’s rezoning process and guide projects for neighborhood development;
  • Carried out multiple MAPSCorps data collection projects to create comprehensive maps of neighborhood assets and share them with the community; 
  • Held the first East Harlem Health Action Summit in June 2016, which awarded $250,000 in grants to resident-driven, resident-selected projects, including a family-walking program that connects residents with neighborhood resources;
  • Created a shared calendar to cross-promote events happening in East Harlem; and
  • Hosted the Health in Action Community Celebration in June 2017 to recognize how community activation grants have
    improved the health of residents. 




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