Community Context 

White Plains is the county seat of Westchester County. A bustling city during the workday, White Plains experiences an estimated influx of several hundred thousand people to the city every day to shop, work, and visit. Yet this number returns to its baseline of almost 60,000 people at night. White Plains has a variety of industries that drive its economy, the largest being healthcare and social assistance. The city is also home to numerous global corporations, making professional, scientific, and technical services the second largest industry followed by educational services. Local government puts significant emphasis on supporting and growing small businesses and entrepreneurs to help the business community thrive.

White Plains is a diverse community and about 30 percent are immigrants. The community is plagued by a deep economic divide between more affluent, mainly White population and the populations with lower incomes and communities made up primarily of people of color and immigrants. As of 2018, about 31 percent of households are considered asset‐limited, income‐constrained, but employed, and an additional 11 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The state of New York expanded its Medicaid program in 2014, but many undocumented residents are reluctant to seek health services due to citizenship status and fear of deportation. However, much of the White Plains community is committed to ensuring that all residents, regardless of citizenship status, are provided with essential services.

White Plains’ Journey to Promote Health, Well-Being, and Equity

Five years into the Sentinel Communities Surveillance Project, the health priorities of White Plains and the ways in which organization and community leaders think about and work towards health and well-being have not changed much.

There remains a strong understanding of and commitment to youth, vulnerable residents, and social determinants of health. With regard to the health narrative, changes in White Plains and surrounding Westchester County have been the result of deepening recognition of upstream drivers of health. Existing collaborations among organizations and social service agencies also facilitated the development and implementation of new programs and initiatives to address emerging needs. On matters of health equity, there is movement in some sectors to be more explicit about addressing equity, but not all sectors have taken specific actions.

Lessons Learned: Where is White Plains Five Years Later?

The health and well-being of White Plains’ residents has long been supported by strong and diverse cross-sector partnerships, including policymakers, nonprofit organizations, healthcare facilities, schools, and faith-based organizations. Such partnerships have provided opportunities for growth, flexibility, and innovation in serving the unique needs of the city’s youth as well as their immigrant populations, although challenges remain. While organizations in White Plains have begun to turn their attention to racial equity, concerns remain around the balance of power and it is yet to be seen whether some of the newer initiatives around equity translate to meaningful changes in the community, and whether they will have spillover effects for health equity. Other communities can learn from White Plains’ approaches to cross-sector collaboration efforts in support of their more vulnerable residents, including children and families of immigrants. And as COVID-19 recovery continues, with historic funding flowing to local communities, future research could consider the ways in which momentum around health, equity, and well-being influence community health narratives and decisions moving forward.

 

White Plains has made some progress in its journey to promote health, well-being, and equity leveraging facilitators like a high level of trust with local government and cross-sector collaborations. However, a number of barriers—including a stark economic divide among residents—impede community health and well-being and are expected to continue.

Facilitators:

  • Mayor of White Plains is highly regarded

  • Substantial cross-sector collaboration and partnership

  • Well-established network to focus on immigrant populations and children and youth

Barriers:

  • Stark economic divide between more affluent and people with lower incomes

  • Reluctance among populations of immigrants to seek care and services

  • Affordable housing and transportation infrastructure remain challenges