Brownsville on its way to a Healthy Village

The Van Dyke Community Center located on Blake Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn was transformed into an information center on Saturday Sept. 20, where elected officials, community residents and organizations collaborated for the creation of a Healthy Village.

“The goal of Brownsville Healthy Village is to empower every resident within Brownsville to set personal goals for building a social and physical environment of well-beings for now and the future.”

Healthfirst Vice President of External Affairs, George Hulse, stated that the partners were on a “three-year mission of working with community partners to turn Brownsville into a Healthy Village through clinical, educational and environmental initiatives.”

Medgar Evers College-Van Dyke Cornerstone Director Sandra Johnson is a key stakeholder in the coalition. She views it as “a big opportunity for Brownsville to improve the quality of life since they are over 24 community based organizations in the catchment area.” During the 1960s, Brownsville population switched to being predominately African-American. With an unemployment rate of more than 17 percent and families’ income below the poverty line, the social issues associated with poverty plague the community. The high school dropout rate is high. It was the only Brooklyn school district without a high school until 13 years ago. Such educational and social problems impact the mental and physical health of the community.

The Panel of Health Care professional addressing the Town Hall was: Moderator, Dr. Susan Beane – Healthfirst vice president and medical director; Barbara Meth, LCSW- Healthfirst family therapist; Dr. Camille Taylor-Mullings; Dr. Keneca Boyce; Dr. Melba Taylor; Kenneth Todd Nelson and actress Squeaky Moore. They focused on behavioral health/ mental health and diabetes, illnesses plaguing the community and which usually relates to the stressful conditions of poverty. Mental health can go undiagnosed because of the shame associated with the illness. The panel stressed the need for early intervention through education and community involvement. The 73rd Precinct Community Council President Anthony Neweil, said the NYPD was committed to, “safety first and respect. We are here to serve you.” This act of service was also echoed by Councilwoman Darlene Mealy and Commander “Rocky” Robinson of the Bedford Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

Keynote Speaker U.S. Representative, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke thanked “Healthfirst for making the event possible, the community for initiating the ‘Healthy Village’ in the community and the doctors who are motivating us to act. Without health, nothing else matters, the U.S. spends more in health care than most countries but the service is inadequate. It fails to provide support, to prevent illness. I’m glad to support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“We need to change our attitude about health care and not just go to the doctor when we are sick. Get past the phobia and speak to doctors and friends. There are still over one million people in New York State without health insurance and we can’t compete if people are unhealthy. The investing of Healthfirst in Brownsville must be applauded. What do we do with what we have learned today? We are fooling ourselves if we do not apply the information learned today to change what is unhealthy in our community.”

The need to take profit out of health care for better delivery of service was emphasized. Stress from poverty, which impacts behavioral health and physical health, eventually impact the community. By partnering with Healthfirst, Medgar Evers College and Health Centers, Brownsville’s goal to create a Healthy Village is reachable.

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