Clinton County Health Department

Through its Building Healthy Communities priority area, NYHealth has supported six communities across the State in implementing neighborhood-level approaches to increase access to healthy, affordable food and to improve the built environment to make physical activity easier.

In each neighborhood, community convener organizations have spearheaded and acted as the main coordinators for the work, assembling and mobilizing partner coalitions to achieve shared goals. As a result of these efforts, nearly half a million New Yorkers in these neighborhoods have better opportunities to lead healthier lives. As this initiative enters its final year of programming, it is vital that community convener grantees and their partners are prepared to grow and sustain their work at the end of the grant cycle. In 2020, NYHealth awarded a grant to the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) to help continue and build on improvements to the local food and built environments in the region.

Under this grant, CCHD worked closely with local municipalities to either establish or strengthen commitments to building healthy, active communities. It helped them develop comprehensive plans to support complete streets policies and other redesign efforts of public spaces to support healthy living. CCHD continued to cultivate partnerships with local businesses, civic spaces, schools, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to conceive of and implement community health improvement projects such as revised crosswalks, connections for safe active transportation, and new park spaces. CCHD also expanded its work with locally owned businesses, restaurants, and food outlets to grow its healthy food programs that promote nutrition and food safety standards to help residents identify and select healthy eating options. It provided technical assistance to food retailers on how to offer point-of-decision prompts and other information to customers. Residents of Clinton County were also engaged to help reimagine their community spaces and become more involved in transformation efforts.

The New School

Through its Building Healthy Communities priority area, NYHealth has supported neighborhood-level approaches to improve access to healthy, affordable food and to activate spaces to encourage more physical activity.

Recognizing that sustainable resident engagement is vital to community health, NYHealth is supporting its Building Healthy Communities grantees to ensure that the residents of these neighborhoods have the leadership skills, resources, and other tools needed to advocate for community health. With this support, grantees can help remove barriers to resident participation and ensure the long-term sustainability of the overall work in these communities. NYHealth awarded The New School an initial grant to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use and perception of green spaces by residents of New York City. In 2020, NYHealth awarded The New School a second grant to continue this study and assess additional opportunities for expanding urban green space for public health.

Under this grant, The New School continued its research on the mental and physical health benefits of urban green space use and assess equitable access to these spaces as the pandemic continues. It conducted further analysis to better understand the uneven distribution of urban green spaces that are of adequate size and quality, especially for low-income residents and communities of color that face disproportionate health risks from COVID-19. It examined social media data in New York City to see how park and open space use by residents changed during this time. The New School also assessed additional opportunities for expanding green space for residents’ use, such as the City’s rooftop space.

Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

The global coronavirus has brought uncertainty and anxiety into people’s lives, workplaces, and neighborhoods, particularly for those who work to improve the health of our communities.

During this difficult time, many organizations across New York State are working tirelessly to keep people safe, especially the most vulnerable. In response, NYHealth is supporting statewide and local efforts to address emerging health care and public health needs in the wake of the pandemic. In 2020, NYHealth awarded the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC) a grant to address food insecurity among New York City residents during the pandemic.

Under this grant, NMIC increased its food relief services to families in need. Demand for NMIC’s food pantry program has risen steeply since the pandemic started, and NMIC has doubled its distribution days per month for the community. NMIC coordinated a distribution schedule that assigns clients to a timeslot where they may come to pick up their food, which allows families to avoid long waits and lines. NMIC will continue to look for additional food supply sources for distribution to address the growing needs of families seeking its services.

View a complete list of COVID-19 response and relief efforts grantees.

New York University, School of Medicine

To tackle some of the underlying problems that have affected the health of communities, NYHealth launched the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative to help New York State communities become healthier and more active places.

Since 2015, NYHealth has invested more than $20 million in this initiative to support six communities across the State in their efforts to increase access to healthy, affordable food; improve access to safe places where residents can exercise and be active; and connect children and adults to programs that support healthy behaviors. This investment also has included support for an independent evaluation conducted by the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, with NYHealth support in 2015 and 2018, to measure outcomes and changes in the communities. As this initiative enters its final year of programming, it is important to determine its overall impact and provide lessons about whether, how, and why changes came about. In 2020, NYHealth awarded NYU a grant to complete its evaluation of the Foundation’s investment in expanding access to and demand for nutritious food and safe places for physical activity.

Under this grant, NYU completed its analysis of the efforts, processes, and changes made to increase access to healthy, affordable food and improve the built environment in each community. The evaluation helped determine the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative’s impact at the community and individual levels, both of which were integral to demonstrating success. NYU measured community-level change in the availability and accessibility of healthy foods and safe spaces for active living, including individual-level behavior changes, social cohesion, and sustainability. It conducted site visits to grantee neighborhoods (with virtual visits as necessary); collected and reviewed programmatic documents; interviewed community residents and elicited photos; and offered the communities technical assistance and feedback to help them incorporate evaluation findings into their programs and use data to improve. Additionally, it focused on identifying the factors that enabled the communities to adapt during the COVID-19 crisis. NYU developed a comprehensive final report detailing the overall impact of the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative, which was shared with each of the six communities and other key stakeholders.

Bronx Veterans Medical Research Foundation

Veterans account for one in seven suicides across New York State, with an increasing rate of suicide among New York’s youngest veterans, even as rates among older veterans have declined.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to exacerbate underlying behavioral health issues, substance use, and the risk of veteran suicide as a result of social isolation, financial crisis, trauma, and firearm access. The Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) training model was developed to help health care providers implement counseling strategies to assist clients who are at risk for suicide and their families in reducing access to lethal means—particularly, though not exclusively, to firearms. Although it is the gold standard for lethal means access counseling, there is a need to expand the reach of CALM and further adapt it for nonclinician communities. In 2020, NYHealth awarded the Bronx Veterans Medical Research Foundation (BVMRF) a grant to tailor and deliver CALM trainings to families and caregivers as well as increase its uptake among clinicians throughout New York State.

Under this grant, BVMRF disseminated CALM to additional clinicians and adapted the training for families and caregivers. It conducted extensive outreach and engagement among clinical networks to educate clinicians about the importance of reducing lethal means access through presentations at grand rounds and helped them integrate CALM into onboarding and training programs at their organizations. BVMRF also conducted focus groups with gun-owning veterans and their family members to obtain feedback about aspects of gun safety, storage, suicide risk, and communication. Additionally, BVMRF consulted with suicide and legal experts to develop the content for the training, including information about New York State-specific gun laws. Findings were used to inform the adaptation of the CALM training for a family and caregiver audience in both online and in-person formats. Finally, BVMRF tracked uptake and completion of the training by New York State clinicians, nonclinicians, and family members.

Global Strategic Leadership Network of Churches

Many New Yorkers struggle with growing food insecurity, with COVID-19 exacerbating existing gaps in all aspects of our food system: a lack of healthy and affordable food outlets in low-income neighborhoods; a lack of reliable transportation to reach healthy food outlets; and gaps in the capacity of food banks.

The Bargain Grocery is a nonprofit salvage grocery store model that offers high-quality food, including local produce from farmers, at greatly reduced prices. Partnering with local and national food distributors, Bargain Grocery stocks different items weekly, depending on what products are available from suppliers and what is donated, with prices typically half of what they would be at a chain grocery store. The operation is self-sustaining, with sales from the store invested directly back into operations. Launched in Utica, the Bargain Grocery also operates a commercial kitchen that provides grab-and-go meals, free cooking classes, and nutrition education to the community. In 2020, NYHealth awarded the Global Strategic Leadership Network of Churches (GSLNC) a grant to replicate the Bargain Grocery model to increase food access in areas of the State where healthy food outlets are needed most.

Under this grant, GSLNC created a detailed operations blueprint of the Bargain Grocery that organizations can use to replicate this model statewide. The blueprint covered a comprehensive set of issues on how to set up and operationalize the Bargain Grocery, such as developing a community needs assessment; identifying financial resource for start-up costs; obtaining tax exemption status and establishing a governance structure; hiring staff; and fulfilling equipment and procurement needs. It also included guidelines on how to become a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) authorized dealer, as well as how to work with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets on purchasing agreements with local farmers. A timeline and financial modeling templates for sustainability and growth were also included. The blueprint was made available, free of charge, to any nonprofit organization interested in replicating the model. GSLNC worked with State and local officials and other community partners to disseminate the blueprint and further scale the model across New York State.