Often, the public health research we conduct involves analyzing new healthcare information communications technology (ICT) programs, care delivery strategies and outcomes for patients located across the country or across the globe. While it’s important to evaluate and uncover new strategies for improving healthcare in some of the world’s most desperately underserved areas, we think it’s equally critical to address the challenges facing our neighbors – those we meet in the subway or in the local coffee shop.

Earlier this year, we launched the Neighborhood Directed Research Program, which aims to better understand the health needs of local residents in the Lab’s neighborhood of Washington Heights, NY. We hope to leverage our team’s research skills to help identify strategies that can improve local healthcare communication and accessibility.

Several political and community leaders, including representatives from the Community Board 12 Manhattan, the Washington Heights office of the Archdioceses of New York, Chamber of Commerce of Washington Heights and Inwood, and Hostos Community College have graciously contributed their time and input to define the most pressing public health issues facing their constituents. At our first meeting in September, they established a list of questions about the health status of the neighborhood, which boasts a diverse group of residents, most who immigrated from outside the United States.

To begin to address some of these questions, last month we presented a comprehensive community health profile and gathered a host of innovative and informed suggestions for developing an enduring program that can begin to open access to primary care; improve nutrition, fitness, and other preventive measures; and address other challenges.

We are very enthusiastic about this new program, and look forward to working more closely with neighbors who share a common goal of improving the health and healthcare of Washington Heights residents.