Friday, September 14, 2018

Mt. Hope Staff Makes the Mt. Hope Health Center a Healthy Beverage Zone

When you enter the Institute for Family Health's Mt. Hope Family Practice you can now quench your thirst with a cup of delicious, fruit infused water as the Mt. Hope Family Practice is part of the Bronx Healthy Beverage Zone. The fruit infused water came about after the staff expressed an interest in changing their eating habits.

"We invited Bronx Health REACH staff member Kelly Moltzen and Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC to the Health Center to show us how we could manage our sugar intake," says Tanya Baker, staff administrator at Mt. Hope. "During this meeting they provided examples of various sugary beverages and under each container they placed a plastic pouch showing exactly how much sugar each one contained. We were shocked by the unhealthy amounts of sugar in each beverage. During this education session they taught us how to read the nutrition labels. With this newly acquired knowledge we decided to sign the pledge to stay away from sugary drinks."

Kelly, who also co-chairs the Bronx Healthy Beverage Zone initiative, provided Mt. Hope with a fruit-infusion water dispenser as part of the Creating Healthy Schools & Communities program's worksite wellness initiative. Mt. Hope introduced the fruit infused water to staff members and patients with the goal to decrease their sugar intake.

"The dispenser is put out every day in the patient waiting area for everyone to enjoy," adds Tanya. "Myself and the Medical Director are committed to drinking at least 64 ounces of water every day, and other staff members and patients have increased their consumption as well. We have patients and Mt. Hope staff filling their water bottles when they arrive and as they leave. The pineapple flavored fruit infused water seems to be the most popular as patients and staff always request it."

Staff share their enthusiasm about the fruit infused water:

“The infused water is so refreshing and in such a perfect location, patients and staff love it” - Krystina Baez, MOA

“Nothing better than walking in to the Mt. Hope Health Center on a hot summer day and seeing ice cold, refreshing fruit infused water. The staff and patients love it.” -Christina Burgos, MOA

“The infused water is amazing, especially the pineapple. It’s refreshing and quenches our thirst.” - Montrecia Frazier, MOA

“Ms. Baker, let’s keep this water going. The patients love it when they walk in thirsty from the outside.” - Karen Gil, MOA

“I am really enjoying the refreshing water they provide. I love it so much that it has encouraged me to do it at home as well.” - Affya Thompson, LPN

“Having the infused water here at Mt. Hope exposes patients to a great way of living.” - Dr. Amarilys Cortijo, Medical Director.

“It is exciting to see staff taking control of their health...Mount Hope is serving as a great example for what other worksites and health clinics can accomplish.”  - Kelly Moltzen, MPH, RD

Tanya Baker and Kelly Moltzen contributed to this article.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Second Tabernacle Church and Mt. Zion CME Come Together to Cook and Reclaim Health

Two Bronx Health REACH partner churches, Second Tabernacle Church and Mt. Zion CME are the second and third churches to complete the 6-session workshop series, ‘A Taste of African Heritage,’ from Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization.  A Taste of African Heritage introduces participants to a delicious, plant-based diet high in flavor and low in cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. 14 participants cooked the recipes and learned about healthy ways of eating plant based foods.

Nellie Bryant from Second Tabernacle Church and Bronx Health REACH's Joseph Ellis were instrumental in getting both churches involved. 14 participants cooked together, enjoyed fellowship and learned to bring back the healthy "Old Ways" of eating.

"I had a great time teaching the Oldways African Heritage & Health Program," said Ivette Brown from Bodies By Brownie, who led the workshop. "The church members enjoyed being introduced to new alternative food options like millet, quinoa, and various spices. Fellowship was the most important component, and by cooking together we not only learned new ways to prepare healthy meals, but were able to connect with one another."

Ivette Brown, who led the 6-session workshop, contributed to this article.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Healthy Bodega Owners Committed to Improving the Health of their Community

This post was written by Juan Mendoza and Naomi Heisler.

Naomi Heisler was an intern with Bronx Health REACH Creating Health Schools and Communities program who worked on the Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh Healthy marketing campaign. 

Naomi is a candidate for a Master’s in Public Health with a focus on Public Health Nutrition at NYU College of Global Public Health.

Juan Mendoza was an intern with the Bronx Health REACH Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program who worked on the Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh marketing campaign as part of the Cooperative Education Program at Hostos College. Juan is studying for his Associate’s in Community Health and is expected to graduate this fall. 

As part of our internship program at Bronx Health REACH, Naomi Heisler and I were assigned the task of liaison to the bodega owners involved in the Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh marketing campaign. I had this feeling that convincing bodega owners to sell healthy items was going to be a challenge. Scheduling a time to speak with the 5 bodega owners was difficult enough, but also getting them to partner with a school to promote the Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh Healthy Bodega Campaign I thought would be impossible! Fortunately, it wasn’t as hard as I had thought.

At first we encountered resistance from some of the bodega owners. “My store has been here more than 20 years, and when students from the nearby school come in to order breakfast, they only choose a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. In the afternoon, students are not purchasing fruits or salads,” said one owner. Once we explained how the partner school and Bronx Health REACH was going to drive more customers to the store to buy healthy items, the owner was willing to hear what I had to say. The plan was simple: the students would conduct a campaign to promote the sale of a healthy item that the owner selected. We pointed out that he could start by stocking a modest amount of healthy items in the first few days to see if the promotional event was working.

Then, he could restock the healthy items the following week, based on customers’ response. The goal was to run the promotional event for one month. If successful, he could continue to sell the items.  Despite his initial negative mindset, I convinced this owner and the four others that by participating in the  'Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh' Healthy Bodega campaign, would significantly benefit their stores and local communities.

We surveyed the stores to determine areas for improvement in promoting healthy food and beverages. Then we provided the five bodega owners and staff with free training and resources. During the Don’t Stress, Eat Fresh training, Naomi and I gave the owners tips on how to promote and market healthier options using standard food marketing techniques. These included: placing a cooler stocked with cold water or fruit salad next to the register to encourage people to make a healthy impulse purchase on the go; placing healthy items on the racks towards the front of the store and at children’s eye-level; and giving away free samples of fresh cut fruit or low-sodium deli meat. We explained that this was another way to attract customers to the deli counter and engage them in a conversation about why low-sodium meat and cheese are healthier and tastier options. We also gave the bodega staff a nutrition label reading lesson and advice on how to prepare different recipes, so they could provide healthier options to their customers.

We were impressed to see the positive steps bodega owners took to become a healthier bodega with the help of their partner schools PS36, 443 and 294. M.H. Deli Grocery, (located at 1405 Walton Ave, Bronx, NY, 10452), placed fruit salads, garden salads and water in a beverage case near the entrance. M.H. Deli Grocery is participating in the program for the second year in a row. Eye-catching signs created by PS294 students from last year are still on display. The signs (in English and in Spanish) hang above healthier options such as water, trail mix, and baked chips. The signs, the bodega owner told us, has drawn attention to those healthy products from PS 294 students, parents, and teachers who frequent the bodega. The success of the student project from last year was one of the reasons the owner agreed to do this project again. Another reason was that his son attends PS294.

Saisel Alloltacar, the owner of SABA Deli, located at 1183 Castle Hill Ave, also has a son attending the partner school, PS36. But that wasn’t the only reason why he decided to do this project. Saisel always has healthy food available in his bodega so “whenever the community decides to make that change in their lives, they can purchase it at my store.” It seems the bodega owners were always willing to sell healthy food, they just needed to believe that their customers would buy these foods. Once they had the support of Naomi and I, and the students from the nearby schools who really care about their community, we found the bodega owners were willing to make the changes. The result, a healthier community.

It has been such a beautiful experience for both Naomi and I to see this project come together, how our efforts are paying off, and that the community is benefitting from our work.

How My Summer Youth Employment Program Pushed Me to the Next Level

This post was written by Larome Johnson, a participant in the Institute for Family Health's Summer Youth Employment Program.

As I was about to begin my third year at the Institute for Family Health's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), it looked to be more of a challenge than the previous two years. Not only would I be working at a new location (2006 Madison Avenue), but this summer my school required that I take a summer class. Juggling work and school, I was not sure I would be able to handle this busy schedule. Being told that I would be working at the 2006 Madison Avenue location for my SYEP this year scared me a little because I knew this location was the corporate office of the Institute for Family Health, and I didn’t know who I would be working for or what I would be doing, so I was hesitant to begin working. The previous two years I worked at the Walton Health Center mainly calling patients to remind them of their appointments as well as helping them make appointments.

Taking the class in the summer and wanting to hang out with my friends afterwards was a real struggle. But I realized since I was now entering my senior year in high school, I would have to be responsible. And, being able to take the class and work in the SYEP program would help me do just that. On my first day at 2006 Madison Avenue I found out that I would be working for Bronx Health REACH. Working here was very different than working at the Walton Health Center. I had to adjust to working in front of a computer all day doing data entry. Also, this is small, but staying awake was another challenge because of how quiet and cold it was.

I was asked to write a list of goals by my supervisor Emily Oppenheimer that I wanted to achieve at the end of my six-week program. I told her that I would like to be better with computers, more comfortable talking to people, and also to understand and learn what were the professional expectations that I needed to accomplish. To help me improve my computers skills they had me do data entry using Excel and communicate via email using Microsoft Outlook. I also used Microsoft Word to design a flyer and I created a PowerPoint presentation. To make me more comfortable talking to people, I attended meetings with churches participating in the Healthy Children, Healthy Families program.

But I was not the only SYEP here at Bronx Health REACH. There were two others as well, Jay Son and Lionel. After attending the first staff meeting we learned that Bronx Health REACH, to promote their Healthy Bodega program, was creating a social media marketing campaign aimed at Bronx youth. The goal was to encourage them to purchase healthy food at Bronx bodegas. I, along with Jay Son and Lionel, were asked if we could meet with Mike and Emma from the REACH staff to advise them on how to best promote the campaign. They asked us if we were on social media, and if we were to promote the healthy bodegas, what would we do if we created a video. Some of the questions we were asked about social media I thought everyone knew, and that they did what we do as young people on social media everyday. I was wrong. Mike felt we had some good ideas so he asked if we would present them to the staff at an upcoming meeting. I offered to do a PowerPoint presentation. I don't know why I volunteered because it was a lot more work than I expected, and I was nervous since I had never spoken in front of a group before.

To enlighten the Bronx Health REACH team, me, Jay Son and Lionel met a few times to figure out what Bronx Health REACH could do to create a social media campaign for their bodegas. After they showed us the signage and images created for the campaign we thought up various video ideas they could do. Some included: A person juggling apples or singing a jingle in the bodegas; a contest similar to the Ice Bucket challenge such as a viral dance in the bodegas; a teenager buying something healthy from a bodega and saying, “If I can do it, so can you!” The videos could be posted on Instagram and Snapchat. Honestly, I thought that everyone had Snapchat but apparently it’s just a teenager thing because Bronx Health REACH does not have a Snapchat. If they did, they would be reaching a lot more Bronx youth. We explained how Snapchat allowed you to post short videos and pictures of basically anything you wanted. Also, in the presentation we gave examples of some snaps people can make to get Bronx Health REACH trending. Although creating the PowerPoint was tedious at times, it enabled me to step out of my comfort zone by presenting ideas to a group, something I never thought I would be doing.

I felt my SYEP at Bronx Health REACH helped me in many ways prepare for college and a job in the future. I enjoyed getting to know my supervisors and people in the office. Everyone was very welcoming and eager to pick my brain for their social media campaign. Just being in this office environment showed me what type of office community I would want to be in. This experience was very helpful and I honestly did enjoy it. Bronx Health REACH asked me, Jay Son and Lionel to work the week after our SYEP ends to help them with the social media marketing for the Healthy Bodega Program.

I don’t think that I could have this as my career because there are many other things I would like to pursue but I feel this is a great organization to give me a kick start in life.


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