Farewell and Thanks to Commissioner Mary T. Bassett

On behalf of the FPHNYC Board of Directors and Staff, I would like to acknowledge the departure of Commissioner Mary T. Bassett and thank her for her extraordinary leadership during the last four and a half years as both Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the President and Chair of the Fund for Public Health in New York City. Dr. Bassett’s tenure focused on health equity and under her leadership the Health Department launched the Center for Health Equity; opened the Neighborhood Health Action Centers; and partnered with community-based organizations to advance racial and social justice. Dr. Bassett oversaw a number of initiatives that focused on mental health, sexual health, chronic disease and substance use. During her tenure, her calm and clear communications helped the City navigate a number of outbreaks including Ebola, Legionella, and Zika. She shone a spotlight on enduring racism and the impact structural and institutional racism have on persistent and unfair heath disparities across our City. She challenged us to be better and to continue to pursue equity in all the work that we do in our communities, in our clinics, in our workplaces, and in all of our conversations. We will miss her!

Dr. Bassett, good luck in your new position as the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor in the Department of Public Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

And, a warm welcome to First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot who will serve as Acting Health Commissioner and President and Chair of FPHNYC. Previously, Dr. Barbot served as Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City from 2010 to 2014. A native New Yorker, Dr. Barbot previously worked for the Health Department from 2003 to 2010 as the Medical Director for the Office of School Health. As First Deputy Commissioner, she has been overseeing a diverse portfolio encompassing health equity, health policy and emergency operations. The Board and Staff of FPHNYC look forward to working with Dr. Barbot!

Keeping NYC Students Healthy-Active Design in Schools

Soccer games have long dominated recess at P.S. 13’s (Clement C. Moore) blacktop, leaving some children sitting idle on the sidelines. The K-5 school wanted to make sure children uninterested in soccer still engaged in active play. The Active Design in Schools program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), along with the Fund for Public Health in New York City (FPHNYC), and Building Healthy Communities, and ArtBridge transformed a previously unused schoolyard space into a colorful, interactive area with ground markings and a wall mural. These enhancements encourage students to play games such as “Red Light, Green Light” and hit a variety of targets with balls.

An interactive wall mural promotes physical activity at P.S. 13 (Clement C. Moore) elementary school in Elmhurst, Queens.

Physical activity is important for young people’s health; it helps them maintain strong bones and a healthy weight, and can improve concentration and memory. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children and adolescents (ages 6-17) get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, yet many students in New York City do not meet these recommendations. Schools play a pivotal role in determining whether NYC’s children lead active and healthy lives.

Like P.S. 13’s ground markings and interactive wall mural, enhancements that encourage active play do not have to be complicated. From 2015-2017, FPHNYC collaborated with the Health Department’s Active Design program to raise and distribute funds and technical assistance to 74 NYC K-12 schools with support from Astoria Energy, New York State Health Foundation and the CDC. Schools received built environment enhancements that encourage increased physical activity and healthy eating. The enhancements fell under four categories: active recreation, healthy foods and beverages, green spaces and nature, and getting to and from school. Projects included painted markings for games, school gardens, new water fountains and safe routes to and from schools. Overall, these enhancements served over 70,000 residents, including over 40,000 children.

Schools are chosen through an open application process with a focus on sites that largely serve children from low-income families. Projects are developed based on the City’s 2010 Active Design Guidelines and the related Active Design Toolkit for Schools. In addition to strategic fundraising, FPHNYC assists with subcontracting, the distribution of grant funding and reporting back to funders. Demand for this project remains high; the program has received over 200 applications. FPHNYC is actively raising additional funds to distribute to schools. For information about how you can support the Active Design in Schools mini-grant program, contact [email protected].

*This program is supported in part by a grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Breakfast Club: Engaging Caregivers, Teachers, and Students through Nutrition Education

As back-to-school season begins, it’s good to remember that schools can serve as spaces to promote healthy habits. For residents of neighborhoods like East Harlem — where challenges such as poverty and lack of access to healthy foods put residents at higher risk for diabetes, hypertension and obesity — schools play an important role in improving health outcomes. When our New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene colleagues asked the Fund for Public Health in New York City (FPHNYC) to help raise support for an innovative program that promotes healthier habits, boosts parent engagement and provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables for East Harlem residents, we were eager to help. Together, we successfully secured a three-year grant for $1,536,000 through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that helped create ¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well.

¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well aims to improve healthy food choices; increase access to affordable, nutritious food; and foster family engagement in select East Harlem schools. The program originally focused on improving nutrition education for pre-K through first grade while engaging caregivers through breakfast clubs. ¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well includes two curricula, The Breakfast Club, led by coordinators at parent breakfasts, and Eating Healthy for Success, a Department of Education-approved, common core-integrated curriculum for pre-K through first graders, led by teachers. The program is still going strong, with marked growth in parent attendance, and has distributed nearly 140,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables through a partnership with GrowNYC in East Harlem.

Another key component of ¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well is the research study. Over the last three years, the program collected data six times from surveys of five partner schools and two comparison schools. A paper describing the program design and outcome measures will be submitted to the Journal of School Health, while program manager Andrea Levy works on additional manuscripts to help others duplicate the program and process.

FPHNYC currently serves as the grant manager, overseeing subcontracts with GrowNYC and reports to the funder. FPHNYC also assists with program operations planning, financial reporting, hiring and evaluating yearly budgets to ensure the program stays on track.

“FPHNYC helped to bring our ideas to reality, with both fundraising skills and operational know-how,” says Cathy Nonas, former senior advisor for the Health Department. This relationship has helped extend ¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well funding for another year and expand the program into eight schools. The program prides itself on empowering and engaging community members while creating a sustainable model for the future. Looking ahead, ¡Buen Provecho! — Eat Well will focus on sustainability and ensuring residents continue to have access to the foods they need to be healthy, strong and ready to learn this new school year.