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Monthly Health Topics

Changing Healthcare Culture by Creating Healthy Villages

By George Hulse, Vice President of External Affairs, Healthfirst
Enjoying a healthy life is influenced not only by a person’s genetic makeup, it is also impacted by their community’s healthcare culture—the way a community thinks about its health and how it experiences healthcare. I believe that community organizations can play a prominent role in offering our communities the tools they need to improve their health and have positive interactions with the healthcare system.
I’d like to shine a light on one community that has seen amazing results as it moves to change its healthcare culture. Claremont Village is located just south of the Cross Bronx Expressway, in the Morrisania-Highbridge sector of the South Bronx. Home to more than 13,000 people across seven complexes and more than 30 buildings, Claremont Village is one of the larger public-housing developments in New York City.
Claremont Village is a community that has an unusually heavy chronic-disease burden, and many residents in this neighborhood say that they do not have a regular primary care physician to help manage their illnesses. As a result, many of Claremont’s residents routinely use the hospital emergency department for complications related to asthma, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse. Often this translates into a disservice to the resident, since it can be difficult to insure the most effective healthcare follow-up for chronic conditions.
To help create a healthier Claremont Housing, in 2012 Healthfirst®, along with other community partners—including Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the American Heart Association (AHA), the Claremont Center, the William Hodson Senior Center, and the resident presidents and leadership—launched the Claremont Housing, Healthy Village partnership. This is a three-year, collaborative approach to improving health and healthcare in this South Bronx community. The main goals are to increase primary care visits to local providers as well as healthcare screenings and services for the residents to help improve healthcare outcomes.
Claremont Healthy Village uses a multidimensional approach to improving health and healthcare that includes chronic-disease management workshops, pharmacy counseling sessions, community events, biweekly exercise classes, medical screenings, fresh-food delivery programs, healthy-cooking demonstrations, and coordinated, community-based care.
In the first year of the Healthy Village project, there are early indications of progress. Bronx-Lebanon worked closely with a small group of 50 diabetic patients, performing regular screenings and assigning a Community Health Worker to do home visits and ensure that participants have been taking their medication and doing proper follow-up. This group managed to decrease its hemoglobin A1C levels by an average of 1.5 points. It has also been encouraging to see preliminary indications of a reduction in the per-person rate of ER visits and admissions at Bronx-Lebanon. In the next phase of the program, we expect to see similar improvements in health outcomes across the broader community.
The overwhelmingly positive reception from the residents of Claremont Housing, Healthy Village has led us to begin work on a second Healthy Village—in Brownsville,Brooklyn—slated to launch later this year. Many of the chronic conditions that are active in Claremont Housing, Healthy Village in the Bronx are also very prevalent in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
The positive change that has begun to manifest itself in Claremont Housing because of the Healthy Village program is something that can be repeated in other communities around our city. I firmly believe that this model—combining a transparent dialogue with our community residents about their health needs with access to, and engagement in, healthcare to meet those needs—is the key to transforming the health outcomes of medically underserved communities.
George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst website at www.healthfirst.org

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