What you may not know about health in the Chinatown-International District

We are writing a three-part series on the health of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in our region, the Chinatown-International District (CID). With a one year nationally-funded grant, The BUILD Health Challenge has led to a robust community partnership that will take a deep look into the health and vibrancy of the CID.

Collage of the neighborhood

To start us off, Nadine Chan, Epidemiologist from Public Health, shares some of her insights from taking a close look at what our health data can tell us about the neighborhood.

The BUILD Health Challenge grant—which funds InterIm Community Development Association’s Healthy Communities Program and its partners—selected grantees to work on “bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven” solutions for healthy communities. While data is last on the list, it is the first thing we started with. It is through a close look at neighborhood-level data where we can start to see some of the important health issues that are impacting our communities.

For example, in King County here are some key data facts:

  • 81.7 years— the average life expectancy for residents in our County. 
  • 11% of people are living at or below poverty.
  • Cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s are the leading causes of death.

When we took a look at this data from one of our most historic neighborhoods–the Chinatown-International District (CID), we see: 

  • 79 year average life expectancy – this is seven years less than the longest life expectancy experienced in the region.
  • 34% of people are living at or below poverty.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of death. 



Health Disparities
The level of disparities we see in a neighborhood just a few minutes walking-distance from downtown Seattle are striking. For example, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, poor air quality contributes to more asthma, respiratory and cardiac-related hospital visits per capita than 99% of other Puget Sound neighborhoods. Data from our partners also tells us that . . .


Resilience despite a history of displacement

As noted in the newly released Seattle Chinatown – International District 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan, “The CID is the historic and cultural hub of the Asian and Pacific Islander community in the region. People live here. . . The CID is a complex place. It is rich in cultural expression, yet experiences extreme poverty.”

For example, the community experiences impacts of a long history of historic disinvestment, social and environmental injustices and pressures of displacement.

The 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan walks us through a history of social and environmental changes such as the overnight displacement of 7,000 Japanese American Seattle residents in 1942 to the construction of I-5 in 1960, which cut right through the neighborhood, destroying many Chinese and Japanese owned businesses and homes.

At the same time, this is a neighborhood that has been resilient time and time again despite these injustices.

Aerial view of Interstate 5 bisecting the CID

This data only tells one side of the story. In our next segment, Safety, stress and public health: Chinatown-International District neighborhood voices, Valerie Tran from InterIm Community Development Association will share the perspectives from the people who live and work in the neighborhood by sharing findings from their community-wide survey. Look for that upcoming.

* Partners in the BUILD Health Project include: Chinatown – International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), InterIm CDA, International Community Health Services (ICHS), Public Health – Seattle & King County, Seattle Chinatown – International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), Swedish Health Services, and Yesler Community Collaborative (YCC)

** Infographics and images courtesy of InterIm CDA



2 thoughts on “What you may not know about health in the Chinatown-International District

  1. Would be good to include some of the good work that the Donnie Project is engaged in a well.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

  2. I speak from experience of someone who rides bicycle, deliveries curbside and drives through the international district and I believe this falls under public health so am commenting here. The amount of hidden mirco litter that is a constant along the curb line in the international district and turns into stormwater pollution is alarming! The all too common cigarette butt ,plastic micro litter, that is a constant needs to be addressed. People have a right to smoke it’s an unfortunate vice but community leaders need to become aware of it and provide a means for smokers to responsibly get rid of their butts. All this litter eventually enters our food source of fish and shellfish from Puget Sound which the API community loves to eat.

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