Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Bronx Health REACH Test & Trace Team (T2) Continue with COVID-19 Outreach


T2 team members Cheikhou Ann and Felix Rojas (far right above) and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at a COVID-19 outreach event in the Bronx. 

Bronx Health REACH's Test & Trace (T2) team has been distributing signage and information about where people can go to get a COVID-19 test and/or COVID-19 vaccination. The Bronx Health REACH T2 team has distributed over 96,000 masks and hundreds of posters and palm cards to over 400 Bronx churches, mosques, schools,  bodegas, barber shops, supermarkets, nail salons and other Bronx businesses. COVID-19 webinars have been held with schools and community organizations.

To date, the Bronx Health REACH T2 team has assisted in getting over 5,000 vaccinations administered through community vaccine events in the Bronx. There were events held at the Institute for Family Health's Stevenson Family Health Center, the Dominican Food Festival, Darou Salam Islamic center, University Spanish Seventh Day Adventist and Fatima African Braiding Salon to name a few. These amazing efforts have been accomplished through the T2 outreach team consisting of Cheikhou Ann, Joseph Ellis and Felix Rojas and the recent team additions Barbara Toledano and Abigail Baah. 

This success has happened in the face of the challenges of misinformation and disinformation as shared here by one of our outreach team members. "We were doing an outreach event in Castle Hill. There was a mobile vaccination bus and the Mayor was there as well," says Cheikhou Oumar Ann, T2 team member.  "As I was doing outreach two women came up to me and asked, 'Why are you bringing this (the COVID-19 vaccination) here? They pulled the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and now you are bringing it to our neighborhood to kill the Black people.'

As a trusted messenger within the Latino community, community outreach worker and T2 team member Felix Rojas provides support for those he has scheduled for COVID-19 vaccinations. "I have a responsibility to those I refer to vaccination sites, so I provide my phone number, and after someone gets their vaccine I make sure they are okay."

Even though there can be some challenges, many organizations and community members appreciate the work our T2 team has done. Here was an email T2 team member Joseph Ellis received from a Bronx Day care after delivering palm cards and masks: "This is a friendly thank you for the supplies you have provided us today. We thought it was a very kind gesture that will help the community a lot, especially now in pandemic time."

Focus groups and street surveys have been held to identify concerns community members may have in getting the COVID-10 vaccine. A Vaccine Community Advisory Board created in May, has been providing strategic guidance and direction on outreach to the unvaccinated. Training and support for ten community partners to increase our community outreach and engagement is underway.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Bronx Health REACH and Others Call for Expansion of the Healthy Bodega Program


Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson and others call for an expansion of the Healthy Bodega Program.

We were encouraged when in April, Bronx Health REACH, BronxWorks, the Bodega and Small Business Group joined Councilmember Vanessa L. Gibson calling for an expansion of the Healthy Bodega program. This call came on the heels of an understanding at the time that proposed legislation was being drafted that would create a license for bodega owners who attended trainings on best practices to become a H.E.R.O. bodega (healthy, educated, responsive, and operational).  

We have subsequently learned that the proposed legislation has hit a roadblock and there is currently no sponsor nor continued drafting. Disappointed? We certainly are.  Have we given up hope?  Absolutely not. We will continue to work with the Bodega and Small Business Group, food advocates and our legislators to create a business environment that will support the selling of healthy foods in bodegas in the Bronx and across the city. 

In 2015 Bronx Health REACH partnered with the Bodega Association of the United States (renamed the Bodega and Small Business Group) and its ally, the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc. (HITN) to launch its revamped Healthy Bodega Initiative which had been initially created more than a decade before to address the obesity epidemic plaguing the Bronx’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

The revised Healthy Bodega Initiative provided bodega owners with the tools and information to make offering healthy food and drink options a successful business in the high need, low income Bronx communities. 56 partner bodegas participated in the initiative.

“There’s no denying that there’s a strong correlation between the lack of access to healthy foods and increased health risks in our community,” said Councilmember Gibson. “I fully support an expansion of this program because it empowers and enriches our bodega owners, many of who are immigrant entrepreneurs who have disproportionately been affected by COVID-19.”

“We need our leaders to come together to support this initiative and help our community,” said Frank Marte of the Bodega and Small Business Group. “One day we can say the Bronx is one of the healthiest counties in New York State.”

Other organizations supporting the Bodega program expansion include Bronx Community Health Network, #Not62 Steering Committee, the New York State Hispanic Coalition, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Hispanic Coalition Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community


Chef Alex Askew leads a cooking session for Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community.

Members of Bronx Health REACH’s Faith-Based Outreach Initiative: St. Helena Catholic Church, Word of Life International, Walker Memorial Baptist Church, Church of God of Prophecy, and Sacred Heart Church have been participating in the first cohort of Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community, a program put together in partnership with BCA Global and the Interfaith Public Health Network. The program is based on the book Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community, a collection of essays compiled by BCA Global President and CEO, Alex Askew.

The program began with an interview Chef Alex conducted with Fr. David Powers from St. Helena Catholic Church about what it means to build the Beloved Community through mindful eating, and why it’s particularly important for lifting the Bronx out of its rank of 62/62 in health factors and health outcomes in New York State. The nine-session program includes skill-building in mindful eating, and cooking demonstrations by Chef Alex Askew featuring healthy ways of preparing traditional favorites (including power shakes, turkey lasagna, black beans and corn, and desserts).

Also included is the opportunity for personal reflection to enable healthier lives, social change and a deeper connection between body, mind, and spirit. The fourth session delved into the history of sugar, going back to its origins in sugar plantations, colonization and the slave trade. After learning about these ugly historical origins to our current food system, in the remaining sessions participants will learn ways to become involved in building the Beloved Community envisioned by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through creating a food system that is rooted in health and food justice. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Webinar Marks The Fifth Anniversary of #Not62


A webinar was held to mark the fifth anniversary of #Not62: The Campaign for A Healthy Bronx!

2020 would have marked the 5th anniversary of #Not62: The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx, but like everything else, COVID-19 shut down the plans to mark this milestone. This Spring we were finally able to mark this occasion with an exciting virtual gathering to celebrate this milestone. As we gathered, Bronx elected officials, community based organizations, residents, farmers, community organizers, food justice advocates, and health care organizations among others, we took a look back at what we had done over the past 5 years. When the first County Health Rankings Report was released on February 17, 2010, the Bronx was ranked as the unhealthiest county of the 62 counties in New York State. Shortly after, New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. launched the Bronx Change Attitudes Now (CAN) Health Initiative. Other community based organizations came together to expand efforts to help the entire borough, and in 2015 the Bronx was awarded the Culture of Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

"Winning the Culture of Health prize was a big deal for us," says Borough President Diaz Jr. "Since then we have been working and making progress, offering more Health Bucks at more farmers markets in the Bronx."  Oliva Little from RWJF shared, "The Bronx is one of the largest communities to receive the Prize. We were impressed with the New Settlement campus and how elected officials and community organizations worked together to create green spaces, access to the waterfront, and using data as a call to action." Senator Gustavo Rivera and Dr. Jane Bedell spoke about their first meeting and how Senator Rivera was unable to find a healthy snack at a local bodega. "We should be angry that we are the unhealthiest county, and I would like the Bronx to be #1, not #62," said Dr. Bedell.

Bronx Health REACH's Mickelder Kercy presented key elements of the Bronx's ranking in the 2021 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Report. He pointed to the improvements of the ranking of Healthy Behaviors, going from 52 to 28 and improvement in Life Expectancy, from 58 to 39. And, more importantly, we looked forward to the future. Dr. Nick Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor of Public Health at CUNY and Director of CUNY's Urban Food Policy Institute and the keynote speaker, asked the virtual audience to time travel with him to the Bronx in 2026 where diabetes and obesity rates were significantly reduced and more Bronx residents were living healthier lives. He implored us to believe that strategies in place now and strategies we can design and implement for the future can result in a new, healthier, no longer ranked 62, Bronx.

Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz, Jr. seemingly also envisioned that 2026 Bronx because he remarked, "Like the Little Engine, we can make a difference and be a model for other cities in improving their health."


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