Healthfirst’s annual Brownsville health expo encourages local residents to take charge of their health and feel good about it
On Saturday, Healthfirst hosted its annual Healthy Village Brownsville, a day dedicated to educating and inspiring local residents to take charge of their wellbeing. The day kicked off with a town hall breakfast at the Van Dyke Community Center, followed by the health and wellness expo at the Dr. Green Playground which featured free health screenings, a wellness zone, live entertainment and a giant play zone for the kids.
The town hall welcomed 450 attendees and featured keynote speaker Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and guest speakers State Senator Roxanne Persaud, Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel. Following the keynote, Healthfirst invited health and wellness experts cardiologist Dr. Perry Frankel; Gabrialle Taylor, director of addiction services for the BMS Health and Wellness Center; Jesi Ramone, MD, an internal medicine and HIV specialist, breast cancer specialist Dr. Evelyn Taiwo and Dr. Keneca Boyce to present on topics such as heart health, opioid addiction, mental health, and more, followed by a Q&A.
“This was probably one of the best breakfasts we had,” said George Hulse, Healthfirst’s VP of Community Relations. “There’s an awful lot of talk about people in communities like Brownsville, that they’re not concerned about their health, that they have other priorities. But they’re very concerned about their physical health and they’re concerned about their mental health. And the fact that more than 400 people came for breakfast really warmed my heart.”
Following the town hall, the community was invited to join Healthfirst fort the health and wellness expo with its free health screenings that included diabetes tests, blood pressure tests, lung function tests, among others.
“We just want to make the residents conscious of good health,” said Hulse. “The quality of life and health in Brownsville is not the same as in Downtown Manhattan. Chances are a person who lives in this neighborhood might have diabetes, be on a dialysis machine, might live with a bad heart.” And he continued: “What we’re trying to do here in Brownsville is to change healthcare culture and attitude to improve the quality of life of this community.”
And to feel good about it, which is why the wellness zone provided spa treatments and massages, makeup and manicures for the ladies, as well as free barber services for the gentlemen. As good nutrition is essential for a healthy body, the expo also featured fresh food markets, wellness drinks and healthy nutrition tips. Live entertainment was provided by various performers including R&B groups Tru Sol and Legacy — and a magician! That, and the giant kids’ zone with miniature basketball courts, bouncy houses, a video game station, face painting, balloon artists and many other fun activities kept the expo’s little attendees very entertained.
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 and more, as Hulse explained.
“A healthy village is not just about clinical outcomes,” he said. “A healthy village is also helping kids get the GED so they can get a job. A healthy village is a neighborhood where there is no gang fighting, domestic violence. Of course, we’re concerned with clinical outcomes, but we’re also concerned about all those other things that make a population healthy.”
Committed to turning Brownsville into such a healthy village, Healthfirst offers year-round free nutrition and exercise classes, as well as extensive programming to address issues like domestic violence or gang violence. And the healthcare provider will continue to focus on spreading awareness and information, to move away from disease management toward disease prevention and to further expand this important initiative, one healthy village at a time.
Take a look at the photos from Healthfirst’s Health and Wellness Expo 2018!
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