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Health Equity at NYU

Aerial view of Washington Square Park with overlaid text reading "A Healthier Future for All Starts Here"

A Healthier Future for All Starts Here

We’ve heard it before: to be healthy, you need to eat well, exercise, get adequate sleep, and see the doctor on a regular basis. But what if you live in a food desert where processed goods are more plentiful than fresh ones? What if it isn’t viable for you to exercise outdoors in your neighborhood, but you can’t afford to join a gym? What if you live below the poverty level, belong to an ethnic minority, or face systemic bias within the healthcare system based on your gender identity?

All of these social factors, in addition to housing inequality, environmental safety issues, lack of education, and geographic location, affect the kind of healthcare you receive in the United States and around the world. But at NYU, we believe that healthcare is a basic human right, and we are preparing students to become outspoken advocates for health equity through education, research, policy work, and outreach. With these tools at our disposal, the NYU community is making good health accessible to more people every day.

Health is the Best Policy

One of the most effective ways to help large groups of people leverage health resources is through policy. “All people, regardless of circumstances, should have opportunities to improve and maintain their health,” says Charlotte Kahan, a Public Policy major at the College of Arts and Science. “Policymakers can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives by crafting legislation to expand Medicaid and Medicare coverage, subsidizing nutritious foods for low-income people, and encouraging physical education programs in schools.”

Nourishing Body and Mind

An apple a day won’t always keep the doctor away, but at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, students in the food studies and nutrition and dietetics programs learn how access to health food along with nutrition education can be powerful weapons in the fight for health equity. “In my Community Nutrition course, we learn low-income communities are specifically targeted by marketing campaigns that portray fast food as healthy and cool,” says Supriya Sumeer Lal, a Global Public Health and Nutrition and Dietetics combined major. “We’re combating this false information with community-based nutrition education programs, and we talk about ways to make nutrition part of the curricula in all schools, from elementary to grad school, and how to team up with policymakers to incentivize grocery stores to bring fresh produce into more neighborhoods.”

Telling the Right Story

As studies like Charlotte’s and Supriya’s point out, bias and background play an important role in how people’s health is treated. That’s why Paul Abraham Roessling, a student at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, created a concentration called the intersection of narrative and medicine. “The narratives we create about people define how we provide healthcare in good and bad ways,” says Paul. For example, people who are obese are more likely to have serious symptoms dismissed as side effects of their weight. “But taking the time to actually learn someone’s story makes us better care providers,” Paul adds. “When we can see the whole picture, we can create tailored care and compassionate practices that save lives and promote the equitable distribution of medical care.”

Advocating for Individuals

When the disadvantaged or uninsured seek medical attention, social workers and nurses are often their first point of contact. Students at the Silver School of Social Work learn how to treat people within the context of their social, economic, and cultural background, while nursing students are taught extensively about how to develop cultural sensitivity. “To provide holistic care, healthcare workers need to understand other cultures and respect their patients’ values,” says nursing student Ryan Byun. “Getting to know our populations means we can build the trust we need in order to advocate for and educate patients, making sure they have the resources and knowledge that they need to lead healthy lives.”

Throughout their fieldwork, volunteer jobs, and clinical training, social work and nursing students become well-equipped at handling any issues that come up, from helping families in subsidized housing deal with unsafe living conditions to improving the mental well-being of isolated elderly clients by connecting them with community resources and counseling. They may conduct community-wide health screenings as well as help people with chronic illnesses live happier, healthier lives.

Major Progress

Here are even more ways to major in creating a better world

  • Interested in groundbreaking research that will influence future policies and practices? Try majoring in Social Research and Public Policy at NYU Abu Dhabi, Social Science at NYU Shanghai, or Sociology at NYU in New York City.
  • Mental health is a huge factor in overall well-being, so majoring in Psychology or Applied Psychology or minoring in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies in New York City will set you on a path to care for the minds of many.
  • To take a policymaking approach in New York City, you might consider a major in Politics, Public Policy and Management, or a dual degree in Global Liberal Studies and Health Policy and Management. At NYU Abu Dhabi, think about Social Research and Public Policy or Political Science.
  • The College of Global Public Health’s mission is to advance health equity around the world, with interdisciplinary majors that combine Global Public Health with one of the following majors: Nursing, Social Work, Applied Psychology, Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, Anthropology, History, Sociology, Biology, Chemistry, or Media, Culture, and Communication.

The Future of Ability

Building a more equitable society means making buildings, communities, and services more inclusive to those with physical challenges. For example:

  • The Disability Studies minor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is an interdisciplinary program that helps students understand the historical, social, and legal circumstances that shape the experience of individuals with disabilities. It incorporates courses from the social sciences, medicine, and more.
  • The Ability Project is a research space created to explore the intersection of disability and technology. A collaboration between Steinhardt, the Tandon School of Engineering, and the Tisch School of the Arts, the Ability Project is open to all NYU students and faculty who want to develop inclusive systems and human-centered projects.