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CID residents in poorer health than rest of city, report finds; Swedish an early supporter of investments to reduce stark health disparities

SEATTLE — Today InterIm CDA and a group of health and community organization partners, released the 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan, the first comprehensive health data compilation and forward-looking directive to address the housing, public health, social services and economic development challenges of Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID). Focusing on equitable health outcomes, the Plan provides concrete actions for the City of Seattle, and current and potential outside funders, to implement proven, data-driven strategies to improve the health and well-being of CID residents.

“People all over the region love to come to the CID to eat and shop—thanks to the neighborhood’s small, independent businesses. The CID is a local treasure, but it’s not an amusement park. This historic neighborhood is home to a community of immigrants, seniors and young children who face a unique set of barriers to health, social, and economic success,” said InterIm CDA executive director Pradeepta Upadhyay. “Seattle is experiencing an enormous economic boom right now, so it’s important to make sure that CID community members don’t get left behind, and get the same chance at a healthy life that Seattleites in more prosperous neighborhoods have.”

The report details startling but long-brewing health disparities between the CID and other neighborhoods in Seattle and King County:

  • The life expectancy of CID residents is seven years shorter than the longest life expectancy in King County;
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of death in the CID. People living in the CID have some of the highest prevalence of smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and no physical activity;
  • More people report having symptoms of poor mental health in the CID than elsewhere in King County.

“The data are clear, more needs to be done with the CID to address the health disparities that are impacting this wonderful community,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We have a tremendous opportunity to build upon our collaborations with parks, housing agencies, city planners and community organizations to implement new solutions to help solve the public health crisis facing the CID.”

The Plan also reports environmental challenges facing the CID:

  • The CID has the least amount of open and green space per person compared to any other neighborhood in the city;
  • Poor air quality contributes to more asthma, respiratory and cardiac-related hospital visits per capita than 99 percent of other Puget Sound neighborhoods. The CID is bisected by I-5, which has the highest traffic volumes in the Pacific Northwest.

As a part of the Plan, InterIm CDA met with residents and community members to discuss their aspirations for a healthier neighborhood. During the community engagement process residents reported experiencing chronic stress, social isolation and sedentary lifestyles as a result of the poor social and environmental conditions in the neighborhood. The following issues were repeatedly brought up as barriers to health: feeling threatened by violence and crime, homelessness and poor environmental quality, and having limited opportunities to be active and engaged in the neighborhood.

InterIm CDA has identified nine strategies to achieve the Healthy Community Action Plan’s vision for a healthy, safe, and livable community. Already, Swedish Medical Center has committed $120,000 of grant funding to execute some of the group’s strategies identified in the Plan. Those strategies include:

  • Building health and financial literacy among affordable housing residents to ensure that residents are given opportunities to be healthy and financially empowered;
  • Advocating for safer and cleaner public spaces and more accessible, culturally-relevant physical and social activities and resources;
  • Working with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to gather more data on near-road air toxics with the goal of reducing exposure to near-road air pollution.

“What drew us to become involved with InterIm CDA’s work and ultimately fund the implementation of their 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan, is our shared mission to build up a health and wellness support system for vulnerable populations,” said Sherry Williams, director of community engagement at Swedish. “When we work together to improve public safety, mental health, nutrition and physical activity, our care team can respond most effectively to improve the long-term health of urban residents, particularly seniors.”

The 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan is the result of a year-long collaboration with Swedish Medical Center, Public Health – Seattle & King County, the Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area, International Community Health Services, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority and the Yesler Community Collaborative.

Link to 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan:

InterIm CDA is a community-based nonprofit, with a 45-year history providing planning, advocacy, social services, affordable housing, a community garden, and environmental justice programs. InterIm CDA promotes policies and facilitates projects that bring together business leaders, property owners, residents and nonprofits to improve liveability, health and sustainability of the CID.