Health: Building Healthy Lives And Finding Care

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

Health in the Hispanic community meHealth in the Hispanic community means health in New York City.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics make up nearly 30 percent of the City’s population. Meanwhile, Hispanics are disproportionately affected by weight and heart problems, and according to the Center for Disease Control, 30 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers lack health insurance.

A number of organizations exist to address both the broad, systemic health issues affecting the Hispanic community and the more immediate, individual health choices available.

Plaza del Sol Family Health Center in Corona treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Plaza del Sol Family Health Center in Corona treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Dr. Marlon Brewer of Elmhurst Hospital sees predominantly Hispanic patients. To address weight and heart issues, he said he recommends avoiding sugary drinks including fruit juices, and minimizing portion size.

Brewer also advises exercising for one hour five days a week. “But go slow,” he added. “I don’t want them to go crazy and have a problem.”

“[These factors are] pretty prevalent in society in general – people sit watching TV, computer games, not enough fruits and vegetables in the diet,” Brewer said, adding that in our society, “high calorie diets are very available, there’s a lot of fast food and these huge sugary drinks that affect the population from very young.”

However, according to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Hispanic community is hit especially hard by these factors, due to a lack of access to affordable, healthy eating options.

A 2010 NCLR report showed correlation between access to chain supermarkets – where affordable produce is available – and low body mass index, noting that Hispanic neighborhoods have one-third as many chain supermarkets as non-Hispanic neighborhoods.

Health professionals in one Queens neighborhood are working to address these issues.

“Corona has a lot of health needs such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity,” said Ivy Fairchild of Plaza del Sol, a family health center run by Urban Health Plan. To combat this issue, Plaza del Sol started Fit for Life, a program for families of infants and children up to four years old.

“[We] teach them how to feed the children from the time that they’re born, to ensure that they don’t grow up fat, overweight or obese,” Fairchild said.

However, for Fairchild, the major health issue affecting the Hispanic community is lack of access to healthcare. She noted that it is difficult for patients without insurance to see specialists or visit a primary care doctor regularly.

Plaza del Sol was founded in 2009 specifically to address the needs of the medically underserved community of Corona. Primary health care, pediatrics, nutrition and radiology are offered onsite.

“We treat everybody regardless of their ability to pay,” Fairchild said.

According to Brewer, Elmhurst Hospital has a very high population of Hispanic patients, and as such offers a number of programs geared towards that community, from 24/7 interpretation services to bilingual information sessions, classes and individualized interventions.

“In my clinic, we have both care managers and nurses that do speak Spanish,” Brewer added.

Fairchild also noted that all programming at Plaza del Sol is in both Spanish and English. “Most of our staff is from the local community and is Spanish speaking,” she added.

Other health resources for the Hispanic community in Queens include Single Stop in Jamaica and RAICES Senior Center in Corona and Astoria.

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.