Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Days of Giving in the Bronx

Morris Heights Health Center Gives Back to the Bronx

BRONX - The Bronx has been the unhealthiest county in New York State for over a decade, and a core aspect of MHHC’s mission is to change that statistic and create a healthy Bronx. Since it’s conception in 1981, MHHC has developed and transformed itself into the community staple for health and wellness in neighborhoods across the Bronx. 

The Federally Qualified Health Center, known as “The Caring Place,” has strived to make the Bronx a healthier place by emphasizing the importance of caring for the health of its community through sharing—the sharing of resources that enable members of its community to live healthier lifestyles.

The holidays are a special time for giving for everyone, but at MHHC, The Caring Place, there’s always a reason to give back to the community all year-round. Besides providing high quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare for all, MHHC acts as a catalyst for change in the Bronx through the provision of education on subjects such as nutrition, exercise, and preventative care, access to healthy food options through assistance programs and partnerships, and access to healthcare coverage.

Overtime, the 41-year-old healthcare organization developed an initiative that is now known as “MHHC Days of Giving.” The goal of this initiative is to spread awareness about in-need communities in the Bronx and partner with organizations whose missions align with that of MHHC’s, to inspire the act of giving. Through the act of giving, MHHC’s partners, donors, and sponsors support MHHC’s calling to provide more than just healthcare to its patients and members of the community. 

MHHC Days of Giving encompasses events, giveaways, raffles, fundraisers, and all other ways in which MHHC gives and shares with its community throughout the year.

What usually comes to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving is food, togetherness, and gratitude. To show appreciation for the community during MHHC Days of Giving, the Bronx-based non-profit partnered with over 10 organizations, held 7 nutrition-focused Thanksgiving workshops, distributed over 300 bags of fresh food, and provided over 1,500 turkey vouchers to local Bronx residents.

Although Thanksgiving and the holidays are usually associated with indulging in comforting, decadent, home-made dishes, MHHC makes sure to show its patients and community how to eat healthier, even during the holidays. The Thanksgiving themed nutrition workshops included teaching the community ways to integrate vegetables and fruits into traditional Thanksgiving dishes for different cultural groups, ideas for healthy alternative Thanksgiving sides, portion control, and how to “curb your craving for sugar.”

All of the workshop themes are relevant to MHHC’s mission, as diet and nutrition play a large role in preventing diseases and conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hyper-tension, and obesity, all of which are prevalent in the Bronx.

Obesity alone can higher one’s risk of developing diabetes and heart diseases, which is why nutrition education is a key component in MHHC’s preventative healthcare strategy. Social determinants of health also impact the chance of an individual developing a disease like hypertension or becoming obese. Social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play (CDC—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 

MHHC ensures that all members of its community are not only able to learn more about healthier and more sustainable eating habits, but also able to access what is needed to bring those taught habits into reality. Providing access to fresh, nutritious foods and where to find them is one of the ways in which MHHC is actively promoting health and wellness and preventing diseases correlated to poor diet. This summer, MHHC launched its Fresh Food Farmstand with GrowNYC, a partnering organization dedicated to providing New Yorkers everywhere access to the freshest, healthiest local food. The Fresh Food Farmstand is open all year round and is conveniently located steps away from MHHC’s 85 W Burnside Ave location. Local residents can visit the farmstand at the corner of W Burnside Ave and University Place, every Wednesday from 11am-3pm. The farmstand is not only accessible geographically, but it also accepts various forms of payment such as cash, card, EBT, Snap, and Health Bucks. The week before Thanksgiving, MHHC gave out over 100 Health Bucks to nutrition workshop attendees, which were used to purchase fresh fruits and veggies at the farmstand. 

As MHHC continues to raise awareness of its local farmstand, the organization has also developed a campaign designed to prevent diabetes in its community—“Curb Your Craving For Sugar”. According to Bronx Health Reach, the South Bronx has a 16% rate of residents who are diagnosed with diabetes, whereas the state and national averages are 8% or below. Through its nutrition and diet focused workshops and educational events, MHHC informs its community on how to moderately consume sugar by providing real life examples, such as sugar content contained in popular beverages that can be found at bodegas and nearby grocery stores. 

Children are the future of our community and child obesity and diabetes are serious issues in the Bronx. The “Curb Your Craving for Sugar” campaign launched during Halloween, as a strategy for both parents and their children to learn how to have fun healthy treats that contain less sugar or only natural sugar, found in whole foods such as fruits. During these events, kids were given apples to decorate and turn into “monsters’ and learned how to make “spooky” healthy treats such as “banana ghosts” and “grape eyeballs”, through a hands-on demonstration. MHHC’s community liaison team is happy to say that 0 of the attending children asked for candy and were excited to learn about healthy alternatives to candy. 

Engaging with the community to make the Bronx a healthier place is a significant part of MHHC’s strategy for a healthy Bronx. As a patient-focused community healthcare organization, it is important to directly connect with the people who live in the community it serves. For this reason, MHHC holds and participates in over 300 community-based events per year. Through these events, real connections are made to better understand who the individuals we serve are and what they truly need. Wellness is more than just physical health; it is associated with a higher quality of life that includes care of the soul and mind in addition to health of the body. Healthcare is a human right, but without wellness, health cannot exist in the Bronx. 

To learn more about MHHC’s initiatives and events, visit mhhc.org or follow @mhhc_inc on Instagram. 

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