AMPHS Health Fair – Saving Grace for Sunset Park Community

June 26, 2012

Brooklyn, NY – Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS) in partnership with Pastor Jonathan Bream hosted its first health fair called “Know Your Health Status” Awareness Day Fair at First Church of the Brethren in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, this past Saturday, June 23rd.

The AMPHS clinical staff provided free preventative health screenings such as: body mass index assessments (height and weight), visual acuity, pupillary reflex, and oculomotor function testing, blood pressure measurement, heart rate and respiration rate assessment, oxygen saturation assessment, memory and cognition screenings, nutrition and lifestyle consultations, and healthcare referrals.  Brochures, information and other materials were also available in Spanish and the AMPHS team was also staffed with Spanish speakers who assisted with taking medical history and translating between the community member and clinical volunteer.

The officiating Pastor of the church, Jonathan Bream, who by his own admission, prayed about offering a health fair for his church congregants and the Sunset Park community commented, “It was an honor and a blessing for the Brooklyn First Church of the Brethren to open its doors and heart to AMPHS and the community for this very important and vital health screening. The members of First Church who participated in the health screening have expressed their heartfelt thanks for this service and asked when we will be doing it again.  The health screening and mammography van have been an answer to prayer for those with limited access to preventative health care.  Thank you so very much and may all God’s children continue to be blessed through your caring.”

The Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, characterized by largely Hispanic/Latino and Asian immigrants, has the highest percentage of residents who reported that they do not have healthcare insurance or a personal primary care physician, and the second highest that can not afford to pay for their prescriptions, according to SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s Community Health Report 2007 (1) and Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Progress Report 2008 (2).  The majority of community members perceived their health as fair or poor according to the same report.  24% of Sunset Park residents live in poverty, including 34% of children and 33% of senior citizens (2).  Many residents have a fair or no command of English, and almost half of the population have not received a high school diploma (1).  Hispanics overall continue to be highly underserved in the healthcare arena.

AMPHS screened a total of 28 Sunset Park community members, many of whom were Hispanic, unemployed and not having access to healthcare or healthcare insurance. “To be a part of the free health screening was truly special and reinforced the need for AMPHS to continue its mission to serve the underprivileged community,” said Mrs. Adriene Clark, V.P., Community Engagement, AMPHS.

Many community members were made aware of the event that day and came in to have their mammograms done and other screenings taken.  Ms. Mon Yuck Yu, an AMPHS clinical staff  member, recalled a community member saying, “I just passed by, worrying about what to do about my health status, myself being uninsured–and I came upon your screening!  This is truly God’s blessing.”

Among the vendors who participated were New York City based organizations such as Educational Alliance, Sunset Park Fitness Center who distributed free passes, Children’s Defense Fund, NYC’s Big Apple Rx who canvassed the neighborhood with discount prescription cards, and Project Renewal, who conducted free mammogram screenings.  Nurses from National Action Network, Rev. Al Sharpton’s civil rights organization, lended their helping hands in screening community members.

Products from the Vitamin Shoppe, the official in-kind event sponsor, such as immune balance lozenges and vitamin C chewy snacks, were made freely available to community members.  Healthy choices of snacks and fruit smoothies were also available for purchase.

Ms. Yu commented on her personal experience as a clinical staff member, “The screening was extremely successful. The sheer number of people without health insurance was staggering–almost all of the community members who I assisted indicated that they were without jobs and without access to healthcare, further emphasizing the importance of the work that we do. Many people try to keep healthy, but don’t have the guidance in doing so — one of the ladies I saw, for example, tries to keep a record of her weight each week to make sure that she is on top of her health. She emphasized the need to ‘know her numbers after the screening and to keep track of those numbers on a frequent basis. Yet, in that process, she still did not understand how to keep those numbers in check, how to maintain that balance, and what additional resources were available for her.  AMPHS answered those questions for her.”

Mr. Hewett Chiu, President and CEO, AMPHS, and a clinical team member also commented, “The entire day was fulfilling – on both a clinical level and a public service level.  We saw several community members who haven’t seen a physician in years, decades even.  We were able to provide immediate assistance to those who we found health concerns for – and we even potentially saved the life of a community member who was in a hypertensive crisis.  Perhaps the most moving part of the day was when we saw an immigrant community member with no insurance who was concerned about his memory.  He was young, didn’t speak any English, and consistently found himself getting lost walking around his own neighborhood.  He had an abnormal memory screening result, and we were able to sit down and guide him through follow-up care for him to lower his risk for developing dementia.”

There’s no question that healthcare insurance, resources for doctor visitations and crucial healthcare screenings are desperately needed in Sunset Park.  AMPHS is prepared to expand their service offerings, partner with area hospitals, and host many of these health fairs and community events to assist with these challenges.  The larger challenge and opportunity is marketing and promotion.

Ms. Latesha Richards, Director of Marketing and Sales said, “Sunset Park represents a large opportunity for us.  Hispanics generally are not informed about the healthcare options available to them.  Since many of them do not have healthcare insurance, and can not afford medical care, they are less likely to comfortably interact with the healthcare system.  There are also language barriers involved as well and our outreach must speak the same language.  Building a large team of Spanish speakers and a spanish infrastructure is crucial in communicating to this market.”

On the health screening feedback survey, community members indicated that AMPHS clinical volunteers behaved professionally towards them, spent sufficient time with them, and answered all of their questions and concerns.  All community members indicated that they would participate in a future screening, and refer their friends or relatives to participate, if another fair were offered.

“Saturday’s health event was an magnificent showing of the hands on approach and commitment that AMPHS has for promoting the health and well being of all community members,” said Sandra George, S.V.P, and Chief Operating Officer, Operations, AMPHS.  “AMPHS staff,  interns and volunteers from multiple organizations came together to support this amazing effort to embrace the underserved of our community.”

About AMPHS: The Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS) is a humanitarian 501(c)3 non-profit organization operated exclusively by volunteers dedicated to providing free healthcare services to underprivileged communities of Brooklyn and New York City.  From strengthening our foundation through the public trust, we work to integrate healthcare systems, education, awareness, and disease prevention such that all people can appreciate healthcare not as a privilege, but as a basic human right.

For more information about us, please visit us at: national.amphsonline.org.

References:

  1. SUNY Downstate Medical Center Community Health Report (2007).  Available at: http://www.downstate.edu/bhr/reports/Community-Health-Report.pdf
  2. Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Progress Report 2008.  Available at: http://www.cflsp.org/pdfs/CFL_ProgressReport08_Final.pdf

Photos from “Know Your Health Status Awareness Day” Health Fair – June 23, 2012

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