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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

School of Public Health

Focus on Urban and Immigrant Health

The US population is changing dramatically. Rapid growth in the immigrant population has led to a vibrant mix of cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Since the 1970s, Latin America and Asia have replaced Europe as major sending regions of immigrants to the US. From neighboring Mexico to Guyana to India, there is no typical US immigrant. Nowhere is this diversity more striking than in New York City where almost 3 out of every 5 persons is immigrant or born to immigrant parents; over 38 languages are spoken in just half of its population.


Brooklyn is one of the most diverse and vibrant of New York City's 5 boroughs, making it an attractive destination for those seeking opportunities. It is equivalent to the 4th largest city in the United States. Over 100 different racial and ethnic groups from around the world make Brooklyn their home. According to the Census 2010, almost 40% of Brooklyn's population is foreign-born or an immigrant.

When immigrants arrive to the US, they experience a period of significant re-orientation and adaptation. These dynamic aspects of migration present unique opportunities to understand the social, cultural and behavioral changes that occur as immigrants adjust to their new homes, all of which influence health. The challenges they face in urban settings, such as NYC, are distinct from those they may face in more semi-urban or rural settings. As foreigners in a new city, immigrants often arrive with few resources and lack strong social support networks. While NYC may provide exciting opportunities, many immigrants have to adjust to new stressors that may diminish their health over time including an over-burdened healthcare system, work stress, discrimination and limited time for rest and recreation , a situation dramatically different from what they left behind in their countries of origin. To address the public health challenges of the diverse populations of NYC, the SUNY Downstate SPH Program offers a unique focus on Urban and Immigrant Health reflected in its curriculum, faculty research and community service.


The world has experienced unprecedented urban growth in the last decades. By 2050, it is projected that 70% of the world will be living in cities. Our School's emphasis on Urban and Immigrant Health can inform public health efforts locally in NYC and Brooklyn, as well as in many cities around the world.