This year’s health expo attracted close to 4,000 visitors and featured free health screenings, a wellness zone and a fun children’s zone

On Saturday, Healthfirst took over the Dr. Green Playground for its second annual Health and Wellness Expo. This year, the increasingly popular family event attracted close to 4,000 visitors and featured free health screenings, a wellness zone and a fun children’s zone.

“This community here [in Brownsville] has a high number of residents with diabetes, hypertension and asthma,” said George Hulse, Healthfirst’s vice president of community engagement. “We want to make Brownsville the leading community in awareness and prevention through health education.”

Free fruit markets had healthy, fresh snacks readily available for the visitors.

In the center of the expo was the health pavilion which offered more than 90 different free medical screenings and had various specialists on site, including a cardiology team and pediatrists.

The wellness zone provided spa treatments and massages, makeup and manicures for the ladies, as well as free barber services for the gentlemen. Fresh fruit markets, cooking demonstrations and a juicing station had delicious samples readily available, coupled with healthy nutrition tips.

An enormous kids’ zone with miniature basketball courts, bouncy houses, face painting, ballon artists and many other fun activities kept the expo’s little attendees very busy. Live entertainment was provided by various performers including RnB groups Tru Sol and Legacy.

The folks of GrowNYC shared useful information about recycling and sustainability.

The health and wellness expo is an integral part of “Healthy Village Brownsville,” a concept that was brought to life three years ago. Healthfirst approached NYCHA’s Van Dyke Houses resident association about a collaboration to improve the health outcomes of its residents. With the residents’ input, the partnership birthed the idea of “Healthy Village Brownsville” and various other initiatives: Diabetes education, asthma care, tutorial programs for children, initiatives to address domestic violence and gang violence.

The resident’s top priority, however, was a different one: to get the fences surrounding Van Dyke Houses painted.

Healthfirst’s Vice President of Community Engagement George Hulse knows: “An educated population is a healthy population.”

“It struck me that that would be on top of their list. But then we learned that the fences haven’t been painted in 22 years,” said Hulse. “So two years ago, we came with 75 volunteers from Healthfirst, met by 200 residents [all of whom] began painting the fences around Van Dyke Houses.”

This year, they returned with even more manpower: 90 volunteers were joined by 275 residents. Together they finished the fences around Van Dyke Houses and moved on to the nearby Tilden Houses.

Aside from the occasional community project and the annual health expo, Healthfirst is committed to turning Brownsville into a healthy village; the health care provider offers year-round free nutrition and exercise classes, as well as extensive programming to address issues such as domestic violence or gang violence.

Next year, Healthfirst plans to focus even further on health education to spread awareness and information, moving away from disease management toward disease prevention.

“An educated population exercises, eats veggies and fruits, doesn’t smoke and gets regular medical check-ups,” said Hulse. “An educated population is a healthy population.”

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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