Month: July 2013

Lending a Helping Hand, One Community Member at a Time

AMPHS is pleased to announce that over the course of the past three months, it has worked with ten community partners to hold and participate in twelve health awareness events and perform over 150 community health screenings. Screenings include cardiovascular screenings (blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, etc.), vision screenings, dementia screenings, and HIV testing. A number of community members have also participated in the AMPHS prescription, health insurance, and vision assistance programs.

Screening events have included in-house events at the AMPHS Headquarters and events sponsored by and held in collaboration with Affinity Health Plan, National Action Network, City Tech, Renaissance Men’s Residence, Offices of Assemblymembers Felix Ortiz and Annette Robinson, Shorefront Y, HealthFirst, Interfaith Medical Center, and Family Services Network of NY.

AMPHS is excited to continue partnerships with these organizations. Below are some highlights from recent summer events:

Renaissance Men’s Residence AMPHS Health Screening Event

The Renaissance Men’s Residence, a shelter for low-income male residents recently invited AMPHS to their location to perform health screenings for their residents and employees. The event, which took place between 12pm and 4pm on June 21st,  involved a full-scale AMPHS health screening that included screenings for vision, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Other organizations, including Interfaith Medical Center and PSI were present to offer HIV testing and vaccinations. AMPHS volunteers, including Chief of Staff Mon Yuck Yu, President & CEO and Clinical Volunteer Hewett Chiu, Clinical Volunteer Alice Bonner, and summer interns Georgina Muri, Alexandra Lacqua, and Lisa Rennels, were present to distribute health materials, take health surveys, and perform clinical testing and counseling. AMPHS clinical volunteers Hewett Chiu and Alice Bonner performed 23 screenings and offered vision assistance for free/low-cost corrective lenses to 7 community members, making the event highly successful.


Assemblymember Felix Ortiz Senior Health Day Event

AMPHS participated in NYS Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz’s First Annual Senior Health & Educational Resource Day, sponsored by HealthFirst, on Saturday, June 22nd  at the Sunset Park Recreation Center on 43rd Street in Brooklyn. Approximately  ten community members took advantage of the free and confidential AMPHS health screening services and received blood pressure checks, memory screenings, and counseling on how to stay healthy from AMPHS’ attending clinical volunteer, Tess Aldrich. AMPHS also distributed educational flyers and materials health topics including diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension. Senior Health Day was a day for both seniors and families. There was music and instructors leading tai-chi and zumba sessions, in addition to a free shoulder massage station for all participants. Other vendors included Prudential, TD Bank, Walgreens, and Grow NYC. Earlier in May, AMPHS also participated in Councilman Feliz Ortiz’s Women’s Empowerment Event, where it offered free health screenings and distributed health education materials to women and families alike.


See May 11, 2013 Felix Ortiz Women’s Empowerment Event, a set on Flickr.

June Men’s Health Month & July Hepatitis Month AMPHS Health Screenings

AMPHS holds health and wellness-themed in-house screenings at the AMPHS office the third Saturday of every month. During June and July, AMPHS celebrated Men’s Health Month and Hepatitis Awareness Month with in-house health screenings, where it offered comprehensive screenings that ranged from measuring blood pressure for cardiovascular disease to memory screenings for dementia to counseling and referrals. AMPHS was able to successfully conduct screenings for nine community members, each appointment lasting approximately 40 minutes, compared to the nationwide average of 21 minutes for a doctor’s visit. Eight of the nine community members did not have health insurance.

According to attending clinical staff Hewett Chiu, “our screenings are unique because we are able to spend a considerable amount of time with each community member to understand their problems. We do not ask for documentation or insurance, so community members feel comfortable disclosing their health information to us. During one of our screenings, for example, one community member told us about the distress that she was feeling because her husband was suffering from chest pain. We referred her to visit the Cumberland Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a HHC member which offers cheaper co-pay options to undocumented immigrants. They ultimately had to pay only $15 for their clinic visit. For another community member, we found out that he had considerably high blood pressure and recommended lifestyle changes to ensure that he pursued healthier diet and lifestyle behaviors moving forward. We were also able to help some community members with poor vision obtain free glasses. With the rising costs of healthcare and the limitations of the Affordable Care Act, these services are extremely valuable for the undocumented and uninsured community that cannot afford frequent visits to health professionals.”

Community Member

AMPHS Chief of Staff Mon Yuck Yu with community member Jorge, who underwent the AMPHS vision assistance program to receive free prescription glasses. Jorge has had blurry vision for many years, but never had the resources to visit a doctor. This is the first time he has been able to actually see clearly–at almost no cost to him–because, ultimately, the right to see and the right to live healthy is a basic human right–a basic human right that AMPHS tries to achieve for all its clients.

Air Pollution in Sunset Park & How to Live with It

(2) 4th Avenue

Air pollution in urban areas is almost always a health problem and Sunset Park is no exception. According to the EPA, the six most common air pollutants are: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. [1] The summertime exacerbates the negative health effects of these pollutants; children, the elderly, and people with asthma and heart disease are shown to be more vulnerable. [3] What are these pollutants, their health effects, and ways to reduce our exposure to and personal emissions of them? Sunset Park is on the top five Brooklyn communities with the highest lung cancer rate, according to a 2010 cancer report by SUNY Downstate. [7] It also has a high respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalization rate due to particulate matter exposure compared to most of Brooklyn. Asthma emergency hospitalizations due to particulate matter in adults is also high compared to most of Brooklyn. [3] Although air pollution is not the only cause for these news, it definitely plays a large role in the health of community members.

(2) Gowanus Expressway

Gowanus Expressway, 3rd Avenue

Sunset Park is the site of a considerable amount of industrial activity, including construction, dry cleaners, electronics manufacturing, food manufacturing, and more. They contribute to sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (airborne particles), and other harmful emissions. Moreover, the vehicles on the Gowanus Expressway, which runs right down the middle of Sunset Park, and the busy avenues are heavy sources of pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and benzene (a carcinogen also found in cigarettes). [1] All these pollutants irritate the lungs and some affect the heart too by changing heart rhythm and increasing blood pressure. In the summertime, ground level ozone can be a serious problem in Sunset Park because it is produced by the interaction of sunlight with nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are released by vehicles, industrial activity, and volatile organic compounds (e.g. paints, pesticides, and building materials). Ozone can irritate lungs, cause coughing and wheezing, worsen asthma and lower resistance to lung infections. [3]

(2) Side Street

Side Street on 49th Street

Contrary to what many people think, ozone levels may be higher in more low-traffic areas of Sunset Park because of ozone scavenging. [3] Ozone scavenging actually destroys ozone and happens when a large concentration of nitrogen oxides, mainly released from vehicles in this case, interacts with ozone and forms different compounds. [3] Therefore, areas in Sunset Park with less vehicles may actually have higher ozone level concentrations. Studies also show that parallel side streets (e.g. 53rd and 54th street) may have up to four times as much carbon monoxide than on main streets (e.g. 3rd Ave and 5th Ave) because there is not enough air flow on the side streets and pollutants tend gather up there. Pockets of air pollutants can collect on tight and sheltered streets, making them as unhealthy as being on busy streets. [5] Indoor air pollution is also a problem. Buildings in Sunset Park built before 1978 may still contain lead. Outdoor air pollution can easily get into and stay inside homes. Cooking with gas or electric appliances without a good venting hood can generate a lot of indoor air pollution, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds [4]. Here are some tips to reduce attracting air pollution indoors and keep indoor air fresh:

  1. Have a floor mat at the entrance.
  2. Take off shoes at the entrance.
  3. Mop floors and keep them clean.
  4. Open windows at night to let air circulate.
  5. Get your home checked for radon, a colorless and odorless gas that can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer.
  6. Keep a healthy humidity level to prevent mold and dust mite growth.
  7. Use more natural detergents, fragrance products, and cleaners.
  8. Get a good venting hood for cooking. [2], [4]

It is important to note that the health effects of air pollution are usually combined with other factors, including noise pollution from the honking cars, diet, and other preexisting health conditions. There is little sense in avoiding air pollution altogether, but here some ways to reduce your exposure and to live with it:

  1. Energy StarDo your exercise routine in the morning or at night, not in the sunny afternoons when ozone levels are highest.
  2. Don’t smoke or smoke less.
  3. Avoid streets that are surrounded by buildings, which can be “pockets” for air pollutants.
  4. Save electricity by unplugging unused appliances and buying Energy Smart appliances.
  5. Carpool or use public transportation; avoid traffic by planning ahead.
  6. Conserve water.
  7. Recycle.
  8. Have a garden or grow plants both indoors and outdoors. [1]

You can check your air quality forecasts and health risks at [6]

Written by Karen Ouyang.

Works Cited

1. What are the Six Common Air Pollutants?. Retrieved from

2. Davis, J. Breathe Easy: 5 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from

3. Millay, S. Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers:The Impact of Fine Particles and Ozone. Retrieved from

4. Smith, P. The Kitchen as a Pollution Hazard. Retrieved from

5. Underwood, K. Want to Reduce Your Air Pollution Exposure? Cross the Street. Retrieved from

6. Today’s AQI Forecast. Retrieved from

7. LaRose, J. Brooklyn Community Health Report. Retrieved from

Photo Credits Business News

5 Summer Health Tips

Playing in Sprinklers

We all know that summer time brings glorious hot weather, and with it sunburns, heat stroke, and dehydration. And we all know how to prevent these problems.

But could there be some other summer health problems that we don’t hear about everyday? Here is a list of tips for summer ailments that are a little less obvious.

1. Summer Weight Gain

While having a beach body is important to many, summer weight gain is more common than one would suspect.

bbqThe food that we consume at the beach may be some of the most fattening foods we eat all year. Think about it. Chips, hot dogs and burgers, mayonnaise-based potato and pasta salads, ice cream, sugary iced drinks, beer and frozen cocktails make up the base of our summer diets.

But that’s not all. Alarmingly, according to the International Journal of Obesity, air conditioning may be a major factor in summer weight gain. When we are in a space with a comfortable temperature our bodies do not need to work as hard to stay cool, and since our bodies are not as hot, any decrease in appetite–usually seen in the summer–disappears. We eat more and burn fewer calories!

Another study at Ohio State University found that children’s BMI increased on average more than two times as much during summer break than during the school year. (Keep in mind that the school year is four times longer than summer vacation.)

Yet summertime is the best time of year to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally keep the body hydrated and energized. Try grilling vegetables, fish and shrimp and eat watermelon for dessert. Enjoy a day with family at a local farmers market trying out new types of produce or go berry picking at a local farm.

2. Air Pollution

Exercising in Sunset Park

Exercising outdoors is something many of us do in the summer. But there is one factor that we should all watch out for: air pollution. High temperatures mixed with air pollution can cause ground level ozone to form. Ground level ozone worsens asthma and breathing problems, and overexposure can lead to reduced lung function and lung disease.

Make sure to check the air quality forecast in your neighborhood before going out for a run or jog, or even before a long day at the beach.

You can check air quality forecasts and conditions at:

3. Stress

gardeningIf you are looking to reduce stress this summer, try gardening. New evidence suggests that a bacteria found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, may boost your spirits. Mice who ingested this bacteria experienced higher production of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. A second study on lung cancer treatment found that patients who received an injection of the same bacteria experienced better moods and fewer symptoms.

4. Brain Health

Summertime can be a great time to improve your brain health. According to Dr. Paul Nussbaum Ph.D., ABPP, there are two important factors to keeping your brain healthy: novelty and complexity.

Novelty can be achieved by learning a new skill, travelling to a new place, or even taking a different route to work each day. Rather than sticking with a routine, try to change up the order of your morning activities, which will improve brain awareness and engagement.

Complexity is related to learning new skills and improving those areas where you are weakest. For example, if math is not your strong suit, try doing a few problems each day. Improving what we are already good at does not do as much for the brain as stimulating areas that we may avoid.  Both of these techniques will improve brain function and help fight dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other types of brain degeneration.

5. Sunscreen

lipsSunscreen should not be just for the skin. Lips can be just as important to protect to avoid melanoma, or skin cancer, on the lips. Avoid lip-gloss or shiny lipsticks, which function like tanning oil by attracting sunlight. In order to avoid this exposure it is important to block both UVA rays, which contribute to visible aging as well as skin cancers, and UVB rays, which cause skin reddening and sunburn and are the dominant causal factor in skin cancers. Both men and women should make a point of using chapstick that contains SPF with both UVA and UVB protection, especially during long periods of sun exposure.

Written by Georgina Muri, MA.


American Society for Microbiology. “Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?” Science Daily, 25 May 2010. Web. 19 July 2013.

Assershon, L., et al. “A Randomized Pilot Study of SRL172 (Mycobacterium Vaccae) in Patients with Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) Treated with Chemotherapy.” Clinical Oncology 14.1 (2002): 23-27. Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Trust, 14 Feb. 2002. Web. 19 July 2013.

“Avoiding Harmful Ozone Pollution This Summer.” European Environment Agency, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 July 2013.

Bedford, Julie. “Summer Weather Can Promote Poor Air Quality- NOAA’s Air Quality Forecast Guidance Helps Predict It.” NOAA News Online. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 14 May 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

Bo, al. “Contributors to the obesity and hyperglycemia epidemics. A prospective study in a population based cohort.” International Journal of Obesity 35, 1442-1449 (November 2011).  doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.5.

Gelok, Michelle. “The Cool Truth about Summer Weight Gain.” Abu Dhabi Media, 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

Nussbaum, Paul David. “Five Brain-Health Factors.” Aging Today XXVIII.5 (2007): 11. American Society on Aging, Sept. 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

Nussbaum, Paul, PH. D., ABPP. “Brain Health across the Lifespan.” 5 Boroughs Concepts in Care. Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York, NY. 26 June 2013. Lecture.

Stebbins, William, MD and C, and William Hanke, MD, MPH. “Lip Cancer: Not Uncommon, Often Overlooked.” Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013. Web. 19 July 2013.

UAB Magazine. “Does My Air Conditioner Make Me Fat?” Does My Air Conditioner Make Me Fat? | UAB School of Public Health, Feb. 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

“Understanding UVA and UVB.” Ed. John H. Epstein, MD and Stephen Q. Wang, MD. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013. Web. 19 July 2013.

Von Hippel, Paul. “Summertime and Weight Gain.” National Summer Learning Association, Nov. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

Von Hippel, P. T., Powell, B., Downey, D.B., & Rowland, N.(2007). “The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during summer vacation.” American Journal of Public Health, 97(4), 796-802.

Photo Credits

Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc
wEnDaLicious via Compfight cc
arte_molto_brutta_2 via Compfight cc
See-Ming Lee via Flickr
Yasa via Flickr

AMPHS Attends Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Second Annual Five Boroughs Concepts of Care Conference

(5) PIC - AFA conference photo 1On June 26, 2013, seven AMPHS volunteers attended the Second Annual 5 Boroughs Concepts in Care Conference assembled by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.  The conference included a morning session of renowned experts discussing the science of Alzheimer’s disease as well as the care and treatment of those with Alzheimer’s, followed by smaller lectures in the afternoon.  These afternoon sessions were split between three tracks: a healthcare professionals track, a caregivers track, and a track for dementia patients.  AMPHS representatives attended the professionals track meetings and learned a great deal about the challenges that come with caring for people with Alzheimer’s as well as the progression of the disease and the methods for treating people at each stage.

Highlights of the day included lively, interactive lectures by Melanie Bunn, RN detailing the proper way to approach and care for patients with Alzheimer’s in different stages of the disease, a beautiful display of some of the panels which make up the AFA Quilt to Remember, and a Virtual Dementia Tour.  During lunchtime, all participants got a fun break from sitting when we all stood up to dance as part of a demonstration of music therapy for patients with dementia.  Perhaps the most poignant part of the conference was the last workshop, which featured a panel of two sets of siblings and one of their mothers, who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  These extraordinary young adults serve as caretakers for their parents, and had many insights and pieces of advice for how the community can better support early-onset Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

Many AMPHS volunteers found the event a valuable experience.  According to Community Engagement Associate Alexandra Lacqua, “We deal with individuals who are at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease during our screenings all the time, but this session has really helped me develop a fresh perspective of the disease and a better understanding of how to deal with dementia patients during our events.”