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Coalition of Bronx Organizations Continues Mission of Improving the Health of The Bronx Despite Long Standing Ranking as the Unhealthiest County in New York State Exacerbated by the Impact of COVID 19 Pandemic

Coalition of Bronx Organizations Continues Mission of Improving the Health of The Bronx Despite Long Standing Ranking as the Unhealthiest County in New York State Exacerbated by the Impact of COVID 19 Pandemic

Recently, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released its 2023 County Health Rankings Report. From 2010 to 2020, data from RWJF County Health Rankings Reports shows positive changes that improve the quality of life and health behavior of residents through public health education and community capacity building.

In the 2023 report we see those significant improvements in health behavior have been reversed. Especially concerning is the noted worsening food environment (6.8%), food insecurity (20%) and an increase in children poverty (34%).

Since 2015, The Institute for Family Health/Bronx Health REACH, Montefiore Health Systems, Bronx Neighborhood Health Action Center, the Office of the Bronx Borough President and others have served as the backbone organizations for a growing coalition of partners that are a part of #Not62: The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx, dedicated to improving health outcomes and addressing longstanding health inequities in the borough. The Campaign, leveraging the power of community partnerships, contributed to improved health outcomes between 2016-2021, demonstrating the value of community investments to foster a healthier Bronx.

The #Not62 Campaign is based on the premise that there are differences in health by place, and an awareness of the many factors that influence health can be used to stimulate community health improvement efforts by bringing attention and spurring actions at the community and borough level. Recently, the Steering Committee of the Campaign added several new members and, working with a consultant, developed a plan of action for the next 5 years building on the work done in the first 5 years of the Campaign. This work will be critical as the Bronx recovers from being one of the hardest hit areas in New York by the COVID pandemic addressing the underlying factors that foster poor health outcomes.

The Campaign will tackle these challenges by continuing to connect people, resources, and systems, helping residents face everyday challenges as well as extreme events like disasters. Integrating and enhancing the strengths and expertise of neighborhoods with partners across socio-economic sectors and those in the public sector will be key to accomplishing the goal of lifting the Bronx from its last placed perch.

The #Not62 Coalition partners are:

1. The Institute for Family Health/Bronx Health REACH
2. Bronx Health Action Center
3. Montefiore Health System
4. Office of the Bronx Borough President
5. Highbridge Community Development Corporation
6. Green Bronx Machine
7. St. Helena’s R.C. Church
8. CUNY Institute for Health Equity at Lehman College
9. New York City Health + Hospitals/Lincoln
10. SBH Health System Bronx
11. Hostos Community College

“Our commitment and approach to improving outcomes for residents of the Bronx is informed by the health milestones and social determinants of health that Robert Woods Johnson (RWJ) Foundation maps out for our county every year,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “While we have made gains in many quality-of-life issues that influence our overall health, some significant declines also mark our emergence from the pandemic: food insecurity and diabetes are surging, as is the incidence of violence. Since I became Borough President, these issues have assumed high priority in my strategic plan for the Bronx and I want to help every Bronxite realize a healthier future with informed choices and access to high-quality health care. The #Not62: The Campaign for a Healthier Bronx brings together a team of dedicated medical, community and faith-based organizations that work on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities at the local level. We are united in solving problems and building resilience in our communities. I want to thank all the #Not62 partners for their dedication.”

“This report shows how difficult it is to improve the health of a community without addressing the social determinants of health…or what Jack Geiger, the founder of the country’s first community health center, liked to call the political determinants of health – decent housing, access to sufficient, fresh food, opportunities for safe streets and parks to exercise – as well as appropriate health care services,” said Dr. Neil Calman, President and CEO of the Institute for Family Health. “The pandemic highlighted the inequities in our communities, and I applaud all of the members of #Not62 Coalition partners for their efforts to address them.”

“As one of the original coalition partners of “#Not62: The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx”, Bronx Health REACH, through its Health Disparities Workgroup continues to focus attention on the health inequities in the Bronx and calls upon all New York City, State and Federal elected officials to establish policies and provide the necessary funding to improve the socio-economic factors underlying these health inequities for all Bronx residents,” remarked Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director for Bronx Health REACH.

“Hostos is keenly aware of the struggles our neighbors endure in terms of food insecurity, poor nutrition, and inadequate health care,” said Fabián Wander, Director of Health and Wellness, Development and Enrollment Management, Hostos Community College. “And we are unflagging in our commitment to helping our students, their families, and the community at large meet those basic needs by providing food, free dental clinics, and other aid, while also training the next generation of public health workers who can someday help turn the tide.”

“The starting point for every person is to awaken each morning in a safe, well-managed affordable home with the prospect of having a healthy breakfast culled from a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food.….anything less contradicts the dignity of the human person,” said Msgr. Donald Sakano, President/Chair, Highbridge Community Development Corporation.

“This report reaffirms the importance of Montefiore Health System’s commitment to the #Not62 Campaign and its vision to build a healthier Bronx,” said Marcos Crespo, SVP of Community Affairs. “As a founding member of the #Not62 Campaign for a Healthier Bronx, Montefiore is proud to participate in the Campaign’s 5-year strategic plan to address disparities and improve health for all Bronx residents. Providing quality and accessible care and investing in the social and economic factors influencing health is crucial to improving the future of our communities.”

“Bronxites are far more than the sum of data and spreadsheets; we are strong, resilient, and determined in the steady face of constant adversity, exploitation, over-development, and over-extraction,” said Stephen Ritz, Founder of Green Bronx Machine. News like this continues to inspire countless Bronxites – including myself and my students – to advocate, to take decisive control of their health, to create local food systems, model and inspire healthy living and healthy learning, and to support each other. These studies continue to give birth to local leaders, local role models, and stellar community-based organizations such as Green Bronx Machine, which has received national acclaim as a model for success and is being replicated from the Bronx to the world. Clearly, while this news is somber, it reminds us that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we are to overcome generations of systemic poverty, neglect, and blame, we don’t need more studies, more press releases, or more think-tanks, we need investment in the local institutions and organizations that have proven to provide the most effective and successful solutions from our ground up. We are the folks we are waiting for!”

The #Not62 Coalition partners will be expanding to a larger group bringing in more experts from the Bronx as they move forward with a new five-year plan that provides a roadmap for recovery to help Bronx residents respond to the challenges, traumas, and health burdens they continue to face. The Campaign will tackle these challenges by connecting people, resources, and systems with public health partners to foster community wellbeing and a future Bronx no longer ranked last. #Not62