Cornelius, North Carolina was the last place I called home. I was lucky to live by the shore of one of the biggest lakes in the state, Lake Norman. In Puerto Rico, my childhood's home is only half an hour away to the closest beach. Naturally being in such proximity to a clean body of water was a big deal for me.
Although I-77 draws a line between the old houses on Main Street and the lake front McMansions; racial, social or economical clashes were never part of my experience there. The lake is a free source of leisure and health for everyone in the community to enjoy. Swimming, walking, running, biking and kayaking are some of the activities that the well maintained trails and parks in the area allow for. That, combined with great health service providers and well assorted supermarkets support not only the community's physical health but also its mental health.
How is my experience in Cornelius similar or different to what I had learned about Harlem? First, North Carolina offers no Medicaid to low income adults. There are free and fee scale clinics, but the services are limited. On the other hand, low income New Yorkers enjoy more comprehensive health services thanks to federal assistance through Medicaid. I recently heard the story of a HIV patient who moved from the American South to New York because his home state did not offer low cost or free services to treat his condition. Once here, he found himself alone and without a home. That is how he ended up in the streets. Sadly, this is not an isolated story. A short walk by 125th street reveals this and more. A late night visit to any of the public ERs in the city is stepping into a makeshift homeless shelter.
In terms of the setting: Cornelius has Lake Norman and Harlem is close to Central Park. Both natural places are or can become part of the health goals of the residents of both communities. If you ask me I will take a lake over Central Park anytime.