Bronx Community Health Network (BCHN), along with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and representatives from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA), today kicked off a year-long heart disease and stroke prevention awareness campaign. They were joined by a number of leaders from community health centers and community-based organizations that will collaborate with BCHN in this health promotion effort aimed at reaching 100,000 multi-cultural households in South and Northeast Bronx, where heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of illness, disability and death.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., joined by (left) Jay Izes, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the Bronx Community Health Network (BCHN), Eleanor Larrier, MPA, Chief Executive Officer, and other BCHN representatives.

The event, held in the rotunda of the Bronx County Courthouse, also highlighted National Wear Red Day, a celebration designed to encourage everyone, especially women, to Go Red! on February 5th, and to speak up and help fight heart disease, the number one killer of women in the United States. Participants were screened and assessed for heart disease and stroke risks such as hypertension, overweight and obesity.

“Bronxites have to be more aware of the importance of a healthy life style. According to the BCHN, many of our residents are unaware of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such us high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, and even worse, many residents are unaware of the symptoms of a heart attack. With campaigns like Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain, we are hoping to educate our residents and to make them conscious that heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men”, said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

BCHN received an AHA/ASA New York City Community Impact Grant to support the national goal “to not only reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke but also to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans”.

BCHN is a Federally Qualified Health Center “without walls” that assures access to, and partially funds, quality, comprehensive primary care services for under-insured and uninsured Bronx residents of medically underserved neighborhoods at eight BCHN-sponsored community and school health centers operated by Montefiore Medical Center, and two community health centers operated by Promesa Systems. In 2009, over 90,000 patients made 300,000 health center visits. More than 80 percent had incomes below 200 percent of poverty level and the percentage of individuals without health insurance increased by almost ten percent.

At the center of BCHN’s Healthy Hearts Healthy Brains campaign are patient navigators, community residents trained to provide appropriate information about signs and symptoms of common risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The patient navigators’ activities will be complemented by health educators, nutritionists, nurses and doctors at the health centers and a social marketing campaign with public service announcements by various local media and internet messaging.

“It’s very important for this to be a community effort. We don’t want to simply provide presentations and brochures. We want our communities to act on the information, take charge of their health, be healthy and fit and enjoy long lives,” explained Eleanor Larrier, BCHN’s CEO. “Together, we will evaluate these activities to see what worked and what didn’t and build on successful interventions”.

Navigators represent the ethnic diversity of the at-risk community groups the campaign aims to reach–Hispanic/Latino, African American, Caribbean, African and South Asian. Their familiarity with the languages, cultures and customs will facilitate health promotion efforts that will be carried out in collaboration with community and faith-based organizations, including local colleges. The patient navigators will identify and connect at-risk individuals with resources for prevention and medical care, and encourage healthy lifestyle activities, like regular fitness and tasty, healthy cooking.

They will also identify and connect those who need a medical home with a health center primary care doctor, and those who need assistance with Medicaid, Child Health Plus or Family Health Plus applications with an eligibility specialist. BCHN-sponsored health centers provide affordable health care to all, regardless of income or other social status.

To find out more about BCHN’s Healthy Hearts Healthy Brains Campaign, please visit To find out more about the American Heart Association or Go Red!, please visit Go Red for Women or the American Hospital Association.