Vital Signs is a multiphase project that systematically identifies, tracks, and analyzes the social health of populations and communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Initiated by Adelphi University President Robert A. Scott in 2004, it has the primary objective of developing a centralized resource to help inform policy and service provision and reduce social health disparities. As a campus-community partnership, Vital Signs reflects Adelphi’s ongoing commitment as an “engaged university,” and is affiliated with the Institute for Social Research and Community Engagement and the Center for Health Innovation.
Primarily developed as a residential area after World War II, Long Island is now a mature suburb experiencing a period of significant change and facing challenges traditionally associated with urban centers, including an aging population, scarce unused land, congestion, lack of affordable housing, increasing ethnic and racial diversity, and growing income inequalities.
The release of Vital Signs 2014 also follows two crushing events: A prolonged recession and Hurricane Sandy. While previous Vital Signs data offered preliminary insight into the Great Recession’s impact on social health, this report allows for greater analysis of long-term effects. It also provides a first look at well-being during the region’s still fragile economic recovery. Finally, Vital Signs 2014 documents Hurricane Sandy’s widespread destruction and discusses important means to assess any lasting harm to social health.
Vital Signs employs a mix of primary and secondary research methods. Through data collection, analysis and dissemination, Vital Signs seeks to:
Vital Signs 2014 updates the 2006 and 2009 reports and past indicators to assess performance over time and includes one new indicator, Mental Health Services, as a baseline for measuring mental health effects of Hurricane Sandy. The 188-page report breaks down 28 social indicator categories and, when data are available, analyzes each community based on zip code, income, age, gender and race/ethnicity. It also compares local data to state and national data.
Vital Signs have been presented at refereed conferences, as well as at regional forums and public hearings before the Nassau and Suffolk County Legislators. They have also been used in a variety of reports and grant applications to enhance the region’s capacity to serve the need of its residents. Vital Signs has received extensive media coverage, in such publications as the New York Times, Newsday, Long Island Business News and The Nation, and on radio and television stations WHPC, WBLI, NPR, CBS Radio, NBC New York, RNN, and TV Fios.
The collaborative activities of Vital Signs have been supported by an advisory board and other community stakeholders who work in conjunction with Director of Community Research Dr. Sarah Eichberg to facilitate data collection and dialogue about the critical social health issues impacting Long Island.
Financial Support for Vital Signs activities has been provided by Bank of America Foundation, James Hagedorn, Nassau University Medical Center, Office of Strategic Planning of North Shore Health System, New York State Education Department, the United Way, the Honorable New York State Senator Kemp Hannon, the Honorable New York State Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli, and the Adelphi University Presidential Fund.