From a Crossroads, a New Path

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On May 14, Partners for Change Fellow Jamiela McDonnough, served as one of two guest speakers for the Colin Powell Center’s End-of-Year Celebration. Jamiela, a senior majoring in biology with a minor in studio art, offered the following excerpted remarks to her fellow students, family members, Center staff, and guests.

It’s the end of another academic year. The Center is winding down for the semester and it’s my turn to graduate. Now for as long as I have been waiting for this moment, it feels different than I expected. I feel happy and excited, of course. But I feel a little sad and sentimental, things I thought I’d never feel at graduation. I’ve had my share of challenges at City College not unlike most of you. A little over a year ago, I would have sold a kidney to graduate early. But looking back on things now, I realize that everything happens for a reason. The rocky path I chose has led me to some great opportunities including being here to speak with you all. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

For those of you who are not familiar with my story, I came to City College in 2007, where I enrolled in the Sophie Davis program. I loved the mission behind the school and what it might ultimately mean for me: a shorter cheaper way to becoming the physician that I wanted to be. I made friends, I was intellectually challenged, and at times I was even addressed as Doctor. But for all those positives, there were just as many difficulties, which led me to a crossroads during my third year. Ultimately, I resigned from the program.

To some of you this may not seem like the end of the world, but it was for me then. I was down and I doubted myself even though I knew I made the right decision. I wasn’t happy where I was and that had to change. So I took the next semester off and decided to go away and clear my head. I left for Peru in September of 2011 with my suitcase and a journal in tow. It may have been the greatest decision I’ve made to date. The country is gorgeous and diverse and people were so warm and welcoming. In Huancayo, I divided my time volunteering in a clinic & working with children. But of all the things I did there, my favorite part was trekking to Machu Picchu.

Now quick question, who here has ever hiked up a mountain?

For those of you who haven’t, imagine this; You leave early in the morning and its cold, so you have layers of clothes on and a regular backpack. It starts off pretty easy. But as you get higher, things quickly change. The air gets thinner and the lack of oxygen makes it hard to breathe, and the sun is getting higher in the sky making you extremely warm. Your eyes can see that your surroundings are beautiful, but you’re not even thinking about that because you’re so exhausted and sweaty. This backpack now feels like it’s full of bricks, your legs are tired, and your pulling the layers off until the climate change forces you to put them back on. Maybe just maybe, if you’re like me, you have to stop and ride the emergency horse for a little while. [My excuse is that my legs are short so I have to use more energy to keep up with the tall people.] And then you reach the peak, and you feel nothing but joy. Despite the weakness your body feels, your mind and soul are on a high that overpowers everything. Faith confidence and delight replace any doubts you’ve had about reaching that peak.

That is how I feel today. This past year has been the peak of my experience here at City College.

There aren’t enough adjectives in the world to describe how great my time in the center has been. I’ve been granted opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. From the professional workshops, meeting Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Powell, my internship, to seminar meetings with Shena Elrington, I’ve been blessed to meet professionals who have mastered their fields and inspire me to carve my own path to success.

I’m honored to have been part of the “Partners for Change” program under the impeccable guidance of Sophie Gray. In this short year, we as partners for change have interned and learned, mastered the literature review, and even made presentations to benefit our communities. This specialized program is more intimate because of its size but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This group of peers is family to me. The friendships I’ve made and cultivated are what I value most. The trip to Washington, DC gave me the chance to bond with the two-year fellows and it was such a great time. On that trip, I think I had the chance to speak with most if not all of the fellows at one time or another and every conversation was so easy like we already knew each other. What we had in common brought us together despite our different backgrounds and majors. That commonality is our desire to make and inspire positive change in the world.

My wish for the new fellows is that you, too, embrace the opportunity to bond with the fellows within your program and in the others.

This fellowship is the best experience I’ve had in my years at City College and I’m sad to see it end. But from this, I know I’ve learned a couple of things that I hope you all can take with you. First, obstacles lead to opportunity, and second, the road to success is not on any map. Instead, you have to forge it yourself. And remember it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there as long as you do.

Thank you.

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Teaching Health-Care Rights to Empower Patients

Health-care march. Photo by Neil Parekh/SEIU Healthcare 775NW; courtesy Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Nur Afsar

I worried that even 25 seats would be too many. But as people flooded through the doors, I saw that my worry was unwarranted: We quickly put out more chairs for what was to be an amazing learning experience.

Last week on May 2, my Partners for Change colleagues—Salma Asous, Syed Haider, Jamiela McDonnough—and I led a health-care rights workshop for parents of children enrolled in programs at the New Apartment Settlements’ College Access Center in the Bronx. In the presentation titled “Know Your Rights,” we outlined patients’ rights to language access, financial assistance, emergency treatment, and accommodations for disabilities within the health-care system. Many of the parents were Spanish-speaking, so we brought a translator with us. After going over basics, we gave out colored cards corresponding to true and false and quizzed our audience, who answered most questions correctly. I could see my feelings of joy and pride mirrored on my fellow facilitators’ faces: We were making ourselves understood!

I had become interested in becoming a Partners for Change fellow because I was eager to take action. I had taken many courses that addressed how health disparities are linked to socioeconomic status. I was aware of the injustice of low-income minority populations being more likely to have poor health outcomes: They are less likely to be insured and subsequently less likely to have access to a primary-care physician. I couldn’t just sit with this information. What I needed was a plan, a way to help overcome the vast disparities in New York City and make a positive impact. This is exactly what I was able to begin doing through the Partners for Change fellowship.

Nur Asfarco-leads a health-care rights workshop. Photo by Sophie GrayTackling the System
In this past year, I’ve learned a lot through my experience working as a Health Leads Advocate at New York Presbyterian’s Washington Heights Family Health Center and in seminars led by Shena Elrington, health justice attorney at New York Lawyers for Public Interest and our leader in residence. We learned about the ins and outs of our health-care system and how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will bring about changes. In discussions we faced the harsh realities of the system, but Shena never let us leave our seminars without us feeling that students like we are can bring about change.

As a medical student, I was learning all the things I had to know to be a health-care provider, but in our Partners for Change seminars, we were learning about policy. We gained a lot of knowledge (more than I expected!), but what is it really worth if the information can’t be shared with those who really need it?

Stressing Advocacy
After the session, there was a time for Q&A, and with Shena’s help, we were able to answer many of the parents’ questions and address their concerns. Some said they had been denied an interpreter when seeking care for their children or themselves. Others said they didn’t know where to go for financial assistance. As I expected, there were some questions about insurance. One person asked, “Why is there an income cut-off? I work hard to make money, why shouldn’t I receive Medicaid.” We explained the federal poverty level and discussed the Medicaid expansion to come through the ACA. Additionally, we addressed other options for people ineligible for Medicaid—undocumented immigrants, for example.

As an aspiring physician, I feel further equipped by my fellowship experience to inform patients of their options and help them maneuver through the changing system so they can take control of their own health. Informing parents of their rights—and steps they can take if their rights are violated—is a major form of patient activation. We stressed that they didn’t need lawyers. They can advocate for themselves, and I feel we went a long way to empower them with the knowledge and tools to do so.

Read more about Nur and our other contributors here.

…With Liberty and Health Care for All

President Obama at a rally in 2009. Photo: Creative Commons license.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, validated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, and is on its way to having its most significant provisions—including bans on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions—effective by 2014. All elements of the law are set to be phased in by 2020.

With this overhaul of America’s health-care system comes a number of challenges, none more so than for community health centers already straining to meet the needs of local residents. The need for more primary-care physicians is great: they will make up the majority of clinicians seeing new patients, including about 20 million new Medicaid recipients. Yet the rates of doctors choosing to go into primary care are quite low. These clinicians need a broader knowledge base than specialists, but make less money and are generally given less respect.

“Primary-care docs continue to be looked down upon in the medical hierarchy, yet we are the ones who serve the people’s needs,” said Darwin Deen, M.D., who teaches at CCNY’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, established forty years ago with the mission to train doctors committing care for underserved populations. “…[W]e try and help our students understand that it is how your patients feel about you that is important, not how medical specialists see you.” Dr. Deen says that while less than half of Sophie Davis graduates end up going into primary care, that rate is two to three times higher than for other New York City medical schools.

Dr. Deen says that regardless of whether Sophie Davis students go into primary care or specialize, their commitment to the school’s public interest mission puts them in a “sweet spot” when it comes to facing the challenges of serving more people with diverse needs. “We have always felt we were preparing our students for what underserved communities need[.] I don’t think this law changes that at all.”

Keep an eye on Neighborhoods and Nations for this continuing series on the changing infrastructure of the U.S. health care system.

Inside Project 18: Laying the Foundation for HIV Prevention

HIV testing

I am sitting across from Marvin, and even though we just met fifteen minutes ago, he is sharing with me some of the most intimate aspects of his life—his social support, his sex life, his drug use, his feelings about HIV and his understanding about HIV prevention. We are the same age, and we are having an honest and open conversation about trust in relationships. He grapples with understanding how trust in a relationship can possibly protect him from HIV transmission.

At the end of our conversation, he will be administered an HIV test, and take a computerized self-interview where he will answer 300 questions concerning different aspects of his daily life. Then I will conclude the interview, sending him off with a bag of condoms, community referrals, and of course, his financial incentive.

Increasing HIV incidence
At the NYU Steinhardt Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), I have the opportunity to intern with Project 18 (P-18), a three-year longitudinal study investigating young men who have sex with men (YMSM) and their risk factors, behaviors, demographics and mental health outcomes.  Between 2001 and 2006 in New York City, there was a 33 percent increase in HIV incidence in YMSM, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Minorities, including Black youth and Hispanic youth, had respectively 126 percent and 81 percent increases in new infections, according toresearch by NYU professor Perry N. Halkitis. These statistics were similar to those in other cities in the United States.

P-18 looks at the YMSM as part of a syndemic, where these individuals struggle with multiple facets of their identity, including their sexual identity, the transition into adulthood, and their inclusion into their communities.  Further compounding the complexities of this population are the demographics and socio-economic status, which in turn, can contribute to increased risky sexual behavior, drug abuse, and HIV seroconversion.  Acknowledging this, P-18 follows a cohort of 600 YMSM biyearly for three years to try to uncover the behaviors and environmental factors that correlate with and predict HIV transmission. The study findings will allow interventions to be implemented to target vulnerable populations in the most susceptible areas, and especially in HIV prevention.

Appreciating Stigmas and Struggles
As part of the research team for P-18, I engage in various tasks to gain a better appreciation of the research process. This includes participant assessments and drug testing, transcriptions of previous interviews, data entry and data cleaning, and literature reviews of HIV-positive populations. Working at CHIBPS has been a valuable experience, where I have had the privilege to strengthen many different skills: computer and database, data analysis, participant/interviewer techniques, approaches to public health investigation and medical knowledge. With a better appreciation of the stigma and struggles within the YMSM and HIV-positive populations, I have learned the necessity to engage with thoughtfulness, sensitivity and understanding. As a future doctor, I believe that the skills that I have acquired in this internship will help me to better understand the importance of psychosocial, environmental and behavioral factors as determinants of health.

Read about Arielle Elmaleh-Sachs and our other contributors here.

Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part II)

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This is the second post in a two part series on a Wiki created by the Colin Powell Center’s Partners for Change fellows to explore themes around the idea of “service”.

During our discussions of “service” in the Partners for Change seminar another emergent theme was “permanence.” Questions and assertions of service projects’ longevity and sustainability were tossed around while trying to define what makes a project effective. In other words, how do we know if service is making an impact? There were several conflicting views on permanence as it relates to service, but all the fellows’ voices were heard. At the end of the unit, and perhaps after some important time for reflection, the fellows produced a collaborative voice in their “Service Wiki.” The following is an excerpt on “permanence.”

An excerpt from “Permanence” (Partners for Change Fellows, 4/5/2012)

Permanence is a common target for critics of service work. Skeptics of volunteer work criticize the fact that most people involved in service do not stay long term in one organization or area of work, which is then characterized as lacking true good intention. Permanence is a fair object of skepticism, however, only when directed towards institutions or programs. If a particular service cannot be continuously provided, then the recipients of the service should be given basic resources to supply and assimilate the service into their everyday life, which allows the service to become less of a service and more of an everyday activity.

For example, instead of bringing canteens of water to those in deserts, build wells. In Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer’s “In the Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning,” two types of service modules are described. One included service work that was only temporary and the second involved a deep understanding of the multiple contributors of the targeted issue in conjunction to the service work. The first example of service was identified as “charity” and the latter as “change.” The “change” module involved social reconstruction and a transformative experience, potentially being able to create more permanence within the service work even after the removal of volunteers. Service work is about bringing change to one’s misfortunes and that is not possible simply through personal contributions, but instead through the implementation of sturdy resources.

READ PART I: Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service

I believe the fellows initially felt so compelled to argue one way or the other on this issue of permanence because they were personally invested in their own service, while also knowing that it would soon end. Other fellows had additionally participated in short service trips in which they felt, though short-lived, their efforts were well received and made an impact. So, we were left with the tough question of whether or not service has to be permanent in order to be effective.

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I really liked the closure the fellows brought to the “permanence” section of the Wiki by referring to Kahne and Westheimer’s discussion of the goals of service viewed through the conceptual lens of “change.” When I think about service as contributing to social reconstruction, it allows individuals to be change agents in a complex social issue whether or not their presence is permanent.

For both the fellows and myself, it seemed to make the issue of permanence a bit less intimidating and a bit more optimistic. In many ways, we should be hoping these projects actually are impermanent, which would indicate that the “social reconstruction” is progressing even after the “removal of volunteers.” Instead of attempting to settle on an answer to the issue of permanence in service projects, the fellows found a conceptual angle through which to look at and think about their service work.

I’m interested to hear if this is a theme that others have grappled with in either thinking about service or their own personal experiences with service? Do you believe there is a certain amount of time a service project must be in place in order to be effective? If so, what is that time frame and why? – Sophie Gray

Sophie Gray is coordinator of the Center’s Partners for Change program. Read about her and our other contributors.

To Improve Health in Harlem, a Fellow Joins the Community

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Before having the opportunity to be a Colin Powell Partners for Change health fellow I had never truly recognized the health crisis facing the Harlem community. I knew it existed, but before I was given a chance to meet the community and discuss the daily lives and activities of people past whom I have walked on the streets for the three years I have lived in Harlem, I did not know how complex and deep rooted these issues were.

This also served as my introduction into Community Based Research. I never knew the implications that this type of research had for a community in need, and how it could not prevail without aid from volunteers. This is the support that the health fellows provided this year, and the eye opening experience that being a Partner for Change has given me.

The Importance of Gaining Trust

Harlem is a thriving neighborhood that is booming with knowledge, community outreach programs, schools, and medical facilities, but without people to take advantage of these resources, they cannot do the jobs that they were put in place to do. Harlem is an extremely tight-knit community where trust of outside individuals is not granted easily and must be earned. Therefore, residents oftentimes do not use the resources that are at their disposal, as an outsider would imagine. Without gaining its trust, it is impossible to change the Harlem community’s attitude and eventually its beliefs about health. This is the obstacle that Community Based Research must overcome if it is to change the attitudes and eventually beliefs of the Harlem community.

From my interactions with the Harlem community I have come to see a wealth of knowledge regarding health, but it will be an extremely long road before Harlem residents are able to internalize, believe, and act on outsider health recommendations. It is not necessarily education that residents need, but familiarity and trust. Harlem residents need to be able to trust the information they are receiving and be given options that will reasonably work with their current lifestyles, so they can comfortably transition to healthier habits.

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Without cooperation between the Harlem community and outsiders, Harlem’s current health crisis will continue to grow.  We must begin a collective effort to use Harlem’s assets to our advantage, educate, to alter attitudes and eventually beliefs.  For example, Harlem has the most medical resources in all of New York City, many children’s organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, and many community gardens open to the public.

Working for a Healthier Future

By working to change Harlemites’ beliefs towards their health, we can be sure that in future generations, Harlem’s health crisis will cease to exist.  Outsiders need to be patient and work to understand the complexities of Harlem in order to officially integrate themselves into the community.  Harlem residents have the knowledge and motivation to recreate a healthy society. – Rebecca Moore

Rebecca Moore is a former Partners for Change health care fellow. Read more about her and our other contributing authors here.

How do you feel about the role of outsiders in improving communities? Let us know in the comments, via Twitter and on Facebook!

Soda Bad, Pot Okay? Pondering New York’s New Legal Paradigm

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In New York City, buying a 24 ounce soda was fine a month ago. Openly possessing marijuana was not. Since then, a lot has changed. Mayor Michael Bloombergunveiled a plan to ban the sale of sugary drinkers larger than 16 ounces; Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a bill, with Bloomberg’s support, to reduce the charge for open possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.

Rather than editorialize on either plan (there has been a lot of that already), I want to point out some surprising connections between the two. Despite the different motivations behind them (public health; curtailing the negative impact of stop and frisk policies), they share supporters and detractors. They both bring up politically-charged questions of freedom, personal accountability, and the role of the government in prescribing and proscribing individual behavior. Each will have outsize consequences in Harlem.

Lovers and Haters

Mayor Bloomberg is a moderate Republican, which in these polarized times translates roughly to “liberal”. Governor Cuomo is a plain, old Democrat. Chirag Raval, a former New York Life graduate fellow at the Colin Powell Center, hasnoted on this blog that Tea Party libertarians “criticize as unconstitutional the elements of the [anti-snack food] campaign they perceive to impinge upon individual freedoms.”

Increasingly in control of the Republican party, shouldn’t the libertarian Tea Party support the decriminalization of marijuana for those same reasons? If so, why is the GOP faction in the New York Senate forming the major opposition to Cuomo’s bill?

If liberals support Bloomberg’s criminalizing vices like huge sodas, shouldn’t they want him to crack down even more on marijuana possession than he has in the past (especially given his determination to ban smoking cigarettes within a mile of anyone with nostrils)?

Whose Freedom, Whose Ideology?

Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, it seems odd that you would either support or oppose both of these measures. One restricts personal choice, the other expands it, albeit for different reasons.

The timely juxtaposition highlights a much ignored reality of politics and policy: Few are those who adhere strictly to one belief system. Flexibility is the norm. There are those who are willing to criminalize the sale of 20 oz sodas in the interest of reducing the levels of heat disease in the city, and okay with decriminalizing marijuana possession if it improves community-police relations and saves the City effort and money.

In the end, a policy’s results often outweigh the ideology that approves or condemns it.

Impact in Harlem

What strikes me most about these proposed legal reversals is that each will have a dramatic impact on residents of Harlem and other low-income areas of New York City.

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East and Central Harlem have the highest rates of fatal heart disease in the City; obesity and diabetes are closely connected to this growing trend. (Note that a New York Times reporter headed to the McDonald’s on 125th St for comments on the soda ban.)

Minorities make up 94 percent of marijuana possession convictions in New York, a large percentage of those happen in Harlem. The Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 125th St was the site of an anti-stop and frisk rally last fall.

The Cuomo-proposed, Bloomberg-supported bill (which closes a loophole that allows police to empty the pockets of those they stop, rendering marijuana they may have concealed visible and thus illegal) will change day-to-day life for low-income New Yorkers more than for those living in SoHo or the Upper East Side.

Okay, So What?

I’m offering observations, not opinions, and hope this post will spark a dialogue among you readers. So please share you comments in the space below, or let me know what you think on Twitter, or on the Colin Powell Center Facebook page! —Alex Davies

Alex Davies is communications coordinator for the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other contributors here.

Service-Learning Students Compete in an “Apprentice”-Themed Showdown

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“It’s like ‘The Apprentice’,” explained Nancy Tag, chair of the Media & Communication Arts Department at City College—except for the lack of cameras and Donald Trump. “The Client Pitch” on May 16 was a celebratory and competitive event, the culmination of the capstone course in CCNY’s Advertising and Public Relations (Ad/PR) program, a service-learning course sponsored by the Colin Powell Center.

The Setup

The contestants: 31 students in the Ad/PR Workshop, divided into three teams: Phoenix, Introspect, and Intermix.

The client: the Healthy CUNY Initiative (HCI), an effort to make the City University of New York the healthiest urban university in the country by 2016.

The challenge: research, execute and evaluate a full-scale communications campaign to reduce the incidence and severity of depression among City College students.

The judges: Patti Lamberson and Luis Manzo, representatives from HCI, and Natalie Tavares, an advertising executive and alum of the Ad/PR program (’07).

The Competition

Each team delivered a 20-minute pitch that covered their approach to battling depression, their “big idea,” their print, radio and web advertising, and their results. Team Phoenix focused on the link between stress and depression, hosting a “stress buddy mixer” to form relationships that would ultimately prevent depression.

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Team Introspect also singled out stress reduction as the best way to fight depression on campus. The tone of their campaign was “dramatic, direct, emotional, personal,” they said, but they themselves were quite funny. For their public event, they issued invitations made to look like course withdrawal forms—emphasizing that overworked students must “Know Your Limit,” as their slogan went.

The winning entry came from Team Intermix, which presented “Commingle!” Their logic was simple: A rewarding social life lowers the risk of depression. To engage college students, Intermix wanted to create such a social life on the CCNY campus, with the slogan: “Stay. Be Happy. Commingle.”

The Intermix students made their flyers into paper airplanes; they blew bubbles during their presentation to accompany their call for others to “Join Our Bubble.” The judges were impressed: “We liked their positive approach to dealing with stress. We also really liked their creative ways of getting people involved—namely the flyers and bubbles,” said Patti Lamberson, Healthy CUNY project coordinator.

Natalie Taveras, the judge and Ad/PR program alum, was impressed by all three:

Each presentation was polished, organized, and filled with lavender pride. More importantly, each team had strong strategic insights that supported the overall creative and campaign direction. These are the same things top advertising and PR agencies strive for.

ccny-powell-center-hic-client-pitch depression stress

An Educational Experience

For the students in the Ad/PR Workshop, it was a one-of-a-kind course. Rose Dionicio called it “a really great life experience,” and appreciated having the chance to impact people. Samantha Harrison said, “working in the real work force was definitely fun,” but noted that the class was, at the same time, a little more difficult than a conventional course.

The course highlights the Center’s commitment to service-learning as a vehicle for engaged scholarship to effect positive change. Professor Tag highlights the Ad/PR program’s partnerships with organizations working for the public good:

Service-learning not only gives our students an opportunity to work with actual clients who have real needs and goals, but teaches our students that their disciplines can lift up our communities and society in positive, powerful ways. To this end, our senior thesis workshops have been exclusively working with community partners to promote their missions, advance their causes, and improve lives for the last six years.

Past community partners include Champion Mortgage’s Spend Smart Program, theNew York Organ Donor Network, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

There is no prize for Team Intermix (other than the joy and pride of winning), but HCI may use some of the approaches presented by all three teams in upcoming campaigns on CUNY campuses.

Students in the Ad/PR program, led by director Lynn Appelbaum, receive a BA in communications. The program is the largest in the Media & Communication Arts Department, with more than 200 active majors. —Alex Davies

Alex Davies is communications coordinator for the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other contributors here.

To stay up to date with the Colin Powell Center, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

8 Presentations on Improving Heart Health in Harlem

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On May 2, the Colin Powell Center hosted Heart-2-Heart: Improving Heart Health in Harlem and Winning the Million Hearts Campaign. The conference brought together medical practitioners, educators, community professionals and other influencers in Upper Manhattan to work on reducing the devastating rates of heart attacks and strokes in Harlem and New York City. Alwyn Cohall, M.D., director of the Harlem Health Promotion Center and a New York Life leader in residence, conceived and co-planned the event, working closely with Center deputy director Nora Heaphy. Partners included regional administrators at Health and Human Services. For those who couldn’t make it or it would like to take a look back at the conference, we’ve compiled eight presentations from the day’s events.

F. Bruce Coles, M.D. – Creating Change through the Million Hearts Campaign

The conference’s keynote speaker, Coles, medical director for the NY State Department of Health, offered an overview of the cardiovascular health crisis facing the United States, and of how poverty magnifies the problem in under-served communities such as Harlem. He presented the efforts of the Million Hearts Campaign, a national initiative to prevent one million strokes and heart attacks over the next five years.

Darwin Deen, M.D. – The State of Heart Health in Harlem and New York City

Darwin Deen, of CCNY’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education presented compelling data showing the impact of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and the startling results of a study that found that healthy lifestyle changes benefit heart health virtually equally despite whether study participants are normal weight, overweight, or even obese.

Sidney Hankerson, M.D. – Healing Depression Is Key to a Healthy Heart

Dr. Hankerson, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, linked the especially pervasive and severe levels of depression among African-Americans to high rates of heart disease. He argued that psychiatrists should fight the stigmatization of mental illness by promoting treatment that is respectful of spirituality and prayer, and involving local churches and leaders in the effort.

Kari Auer – Using Social Media to Help Smokers Quit

Auer, the online communications coordinator at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, presented on the use of social media and technology in helping smokers quit. She focused on Facebook, Twitter and NYC Quits, an interactive cessation-support Web app.

Patricia Butts & Elizabeth Cohn, D.N.S. – Make the Call. Don’t Miss a Beat.

Patricia Butts, the first lady of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, works with Elizabeth Cohn, from the Columbia School of Nursing, on “Make the Call. Don’t Miss a Beat.” The campaign is an effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Womens’ Health that encourages and educates women and their families to recognize the signs of a heart attack, and to seek medical help.

Crilhien Francisco, MPA – Fresh Bodegas

Fresh Bodegas aims to increase New Yorkers’ access to fresh, locally grown produce by providing free refrigerators at corner stores and bodegas. Crilhien, a community organizer at the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health, spoke about the past year’s pilot program and how Fresh Bodegas plans to move forward.

Jody Ouziel – The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program

Ouziel, the senior executive director of strategic initiatives at the YMCA of Greater New York, presented on the YMCA’s innovative behavior change model that aims to reduce the level of chronic disease, especially diabetes.

Dr. Alwyn Cohall, M.D., —GetHealthyHarlem.org

Dr. Alwyn Cohall, M.D., a New York Life Leader at the Center, cohosted Heart-2-Heart.

Dr. Alwyn Cohall’s presentation focuses on the development and implementation of GetHealthyHarlem.org, a community-based health information Web portal, developed with colleagues and community partners, to provide information in a culturally relevant context.

More on the Heart-2-Heart Conference: