As Senior Medical Director of Children’s Health Fund’s New York Programs, Dr. Alan Shapiro, walks out the door of the South Bronx Health Center and down busy Prospect Avenue, people run to say hello. “I saw them as children almost 20 years ago when this neighborhood was filled with empty, trash- strewn lots. Now they bring their kids to see me in a brand new medical center right in the heart of this recovering community. ”
Every year, program that Dr. Shapiro heads welcomes over 6,000 children and family members to its two buildings just blocks from the elevated subway line. The newer building, the Center for Child Health and Resiliency, opened in 2011.
The program, which is affiliated withMontefiore Medical Center, serves mostly African American and Latino families in one of the nation’s poorest communities. Children here face high levels of asthma, obesity and developmental delays. Adults confront elevated risks of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, mental health challenges and heart disease.
As Dr. Shapiro notes, overcoming health disparities like these requires not just good health care, but the type of exemplary health care his staff provides. “It’s so gratifying to think that we are helping the next generation break the cycle of disparities that once seemed to overwhelm this community.”
In addition to comprehensive one-on-one patient care, the South Bronx Health Center offers supportive group care to pregnant women, caregivers and their babies, and HIV-positive adults. At a nearby community center, the program runs a health and fitness group for children, who get to have fun while getting healthy – racing through obstacle courses, cooking up healthy snacks, and visiting local green markets. Group programming delivers not just exemplary clinical care, it offers participants a forum where they can learn from and support each other through important stages of life and health. The program also offers intensive clinical sessions for patients with diabetes.
The South Bronx Health Center is now working with researchers from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University to help families overcome the effects of “toxic stress,” a mix of social, environmental and physical challenges that can crush low-income children’s health and emotional well-being.
As the South Bronx Health Center enters its third decade of service, this neighborhood’s children can look forward to healthier, more fulfilling lives.