Data visualization Environmental Health Public Health Spatial analysis

Are mental health service providers accessible to those in need?

Rent burden is experienced by those spending at least 30 percent of the household income on rent. This leaves little available money each month to pay for other expenses including food, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and clothes, and people who are severely burdened are living in constant fear of eviction and homelessness. The financial strain caused by rent burden not only creates material hardships but also adversely affects overall wellbeing and mental health and can negatively affect a person’s relationships. There is no doubt that many residents of New York City, where the cost of living is strikingly high and continues to increase, fall victim to rent burden and its harsh realities. But are they able to access the emotional support they need when their stresses and anxieties are exacerbated from financial strain?

Proportion of rent burdened New Yorkers by community district

Location of mental health providers in New York City

Rent burden data and mental health provider data were acquired from NYC OpenData. The rent burden data shows the proportion of the residents in each community district that are suffering from rent burden, while the mental health provider data shows the location of all of the providers in New York City. The datasets are compelling because of the high levels of variation that exists in both rent burden and location of mental health providers in New York, particularly upon consideration of the racial and socioeconomic distribution within the city. I sought to compare the spatial distribution of rent burden and location of the providers to investigate whether the burdened, who are likely suffering from high levels of stress, live in close proximity to the providers and could obtain emotional support to cope with the stress when necessary.

According to the mental health provider map, most of the providers are concentrated in Manhattan, North Brooklyn, and the South Bronx. The South Bronx has a cluster of community districts that have the highest rent burden in the city, as shown in the rent burden map. Therefore, it is beneficial that mental health providers are concentrated in this area. However, there are other communities in the North Bronx, South Brooklyn, and Queens where rent burden is high but mental health providers are sparse, meaning these residents are unable to easily access the care and treatment they may need. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, providers are mostly concentrated in Manhattan and North Brooklyn where residents are more affluent and experiencing the least amount of rent burden, indicating a disproportionate access to care within this city.

These maps are directed towards policy makers, city planners, and health officials to encourage better access to mental health care to those under financial strain and to indicate the urgency to change housing policies to decrease rent burden. The maps are also useful to those experiencing rent burden to indicate where they can most easily access mental health support. Visualization of these two datasets is important because they quickly show the disproportionate distribution of rent burden and the location of providers within the city. It is easily interpretable where there is overlap or not and where the residents are in most need of support but are not receiving it.

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