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NYAM Kicks off 4th Annual National Urban Health Conference with Building Healthy Communities Event

(L-R) Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lloyd Williams, Manhattan Bourough President Gale Brewer, NYAM President Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford

NYAM partnered with The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (GHCC) in presenting its 4th Annual National Urban Health Conference, a weekend-long signature event of the GHCC’s Healthy Eating - Healthy Living Initiative created to help Harlem residents and people in communities across the nation to live healthier and more productive lives. The conference kicked off at NYAM on Friday, April 25 with a session on Building Healthy Communities attended by leaders from a range of community-based organizations, local businesses and government agencies. 

The event opened with a welcome from NYAM President Jo Ivey Boufford, MD and GHCC President and CEO Lloyd Williams, and closed with remarks from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“Where we live has a direct effect on our health and often the heaviest burden of disease falls on low-income communities,” Dr. Boufford said. “We need to increase the availability of healthy choices in our neighborhoods and everyone has a role to play including policymakers, businesses and residents. NYAM is proud to partner with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce on this effort.”

Keynote speaker Roger Hayes, Assistant Commissioner in the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), spoke on promoting health equity in Harlem. Mr. Hayes provided an overview of DOHMH’s District Public Health Offices (DPHOs), including his East and Central Harlem office, which were created “to address issues on the ground.” Each office focuses locally on priority health issues, partnerships, policy change, research and dissemination, and neighborhood activities. Initiatives of the East and Central Harlem DPHO include the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and the North of 96th Street Public Health Coalition.

“Health is often determined by where we live,” Mr. Hayes said. “Our initiatives focus on changing environments so the healthy choice is the easy choice.”

The event also featured two panel discussions with representatives from local organizations and businesses. The first panel focused on community-based interventions. Nunzio Signorella of Boom! Health shared the organization’s strategies for reaching community members with its health and harm-reduction services, including robust street outreach, unconventional hours, drop-in services, and an a safe and empowering environment for youth. Monique Hedmann of Harlem Hospital’s Walk It Out program shared the development process of the program, which offers walking clubs and wellness classes for older adults and has been shown to increase mobility, promote weight loss, and reduce the need for medications and canes among participants. Claudette Jenkins of Abyssinian Development Corporation spoke on ABD’s senior services initiatives, including the establishment of a neighborhood NORC (naturally occurring retirement community) in Harlem.

“Seniors will be the largest population group in 2015,” Ms. Jenkins said. “It’s important that we begin to look at all aspects of seniorhood, including age-friendly cities, activities, housing, and health care.”

The second panel was entitled “Expanding Our Community Involvement.” Kaela Baez, Case Manager at MetroPlus Health Plan, shared the company’s strategy of outreach to all members admitted to hospitals, showing that “someone on the plan side has their best interest at heart.” Silva Omokuro, founder and President of CitiCare, a medical and behavior health facility in Harlem, spoke on several aspects of health care reform, highlighting the importance of delivery system reform and health care provider collaboration. Bernadette McKetney Brown of Renaissance Health Care Network emphasized that “social determinants of health are major causes of health inequities globally,” and highlighted Renaissance’s initiatives and community partnerships to maximize quality of care, lower costs, and improve patient health outcomes.

In her closing remarks, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer focused on some of the City’s recent accomplishments and initiatives, including the paid sick leave law, Age-friendly NYC’s CityBench program and pedestrian safety improvements, and intergenerational gardening programs through schools that engage young people and older adults. 

Borough President Brewer also highlighted her work with Manhattan’s Community Boards (which comprise 600 members) and her interest in involving them with community mapping to determine the assets and needs of each community and determine what can be done to improve its residents’ health.

“We want a creative way of measuring data so we can do something about it—what problem is on which block?” Borough President Brewer said.

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Posted on April 28, 2014

Gina Ravosa
Director of Marketing & Communications
The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
(212) 822-7285


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