By T.A. Hendrickson
Health officials are using a new tool to fight the coronavirus. It’s the California Healthy Places Index, a measure of the health of a community in terms of economic opportunity, housing, education, pollution, access to health care and other quality-of-life factors. The data help officials target resources to the neediest areas and are crucial in determining whether it’s safe to further reopen the economy.
So, how healthy is Northeast Los Angeles?
The Healthy Places map, which ranks every census tract in the state from least to most healthy, shows that NELA is better off than other areas on L.A.’s eastside, but it is still challenged and strikingly unequal.
Eagle Rock is the only neighborhood in NELA with areas that rank in the healthiest level, shown in dark green. The healthiest areas are those that place in the top 25% of census tracts in the state.
But even in Eagle Rock, the healthiest areas are limited to the streets north of Colorado Boulevard and to a wedge bordered to the north and south by Colorado Boulevard and Yosemite Drive and to the west and east by Townsend Avenue and Figueroa Street.
The rest of Eagle Rock is a mixed bag. It is either one notch below healthiest (shown in light green) or it is on the less healthy end of the spectrum (light blue), with conditions that are worse than in most census tracts in the state, though not rock bottom.
In comparison, Highland Park, Glassell Park and Cypress Park are almost entirely on the less healthy (light blue) end of the spectrum, with pockets of dire conditions (dark blue) in Highland Park and Cypress Park.
Mount Washington — which is bordered by Highland Park, Glassell Park and Cypress Park — is a relative oasis with generally healthy (light green) conditions.
It has been clear since the start of the pandemic that the coronavirus is especially dangerous for individuals with underlying health conditions. The California Healthy Places Index shows that entire neighborhoods — including in NELA — have underlying conditions that threaten the health and lives of their residents and, by extension, public health.
The fight against the coronavirus has focused attention and resources on these underlying community conditions. The question going forward is whether that focus will be maintained once the virus is tamed.
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T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times. Hendrickson is committed to local news reporting and to finding a way forward for local news outlets in today's challenging media markets.