FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2002
HHC PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES
President Benjamin Chu, M.D. Delivered Keynote
LAUNCH OF NEW CARDIOLOGY INITIATIVE
at Urban Health Conference and
Emphasized Need to Eliminate Racial Disparities in Health Care
New York, N.Y. - The President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), Benjamin Chu, M.D. delivered a keynote address to a group of 150 physicians, nurses, health administrators and health care providers on Friday, June 7th during the First Annual Conference on Urban Health and Racial Disparities in Health Outcomes at the New York Academy of Medicine. President Chu announced that overcoming these disparities is a top priority and outlined his goals, which include the launching of a new Cardiology Initiative in July. This program is a major step in providing the early intervention services that will make a critical difference in the care of the minority populations in the communities served by HHC.
President Chu cited numerous studies and statistics that reflect racial disparities in health outcomes. For example, at each age of life span until age 44, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans have higher mortality rates than whites. The racial disparities in health outcomes discussed at the Urban Conference were in the areas of HIV, Dental and Clinical Depression. Dr. Chu spoke of the need to examine the challenges presented by a predominantly minority and immigrant patient population. "We must not be content doing the day to day. We have to identify the gaps--- what health care needs are not being met in our communities and try new approaches to meet those needs," said Dr. Chu.
"Right now hospitals function as passive recipients. We get patients who come in through the ER in extremis. Their conditions have worsened to the point where they cannot not come in. This is not the best time for us to intervene," said Dr. Chu. "We have to change our approach. We have to intervene sooner -- do case finding earlier so we can make a difference in providing care."
While early intervention, outreach and education are the first steps of the HHC Presidentís plan; he emphasized that these actions alone are not sufficient. His strategy also includes, establishing patient friendly services that make it easier to access care and follow up on referrals. "I am an internist and believe in the importance of primary intervention," said Dr. Chu. "But, if the primary care physician finds something, he has to be able to refer that person to the appropriate specialist. It is critical that we have an infrastructure in place to provide secondary intervention."
Since heart disease disproportionately affects minorities and HHCís patient base is comprised of 40% Blacks, 45% Latino, 10% Asian, and 5% other, the last two steps of Dr. Chuís plan address this issue. These strategies include improving HHC diagnostic capabilities and the ability to work and refer across the various HHC networks. The goal is to improve cardiac data collecting and sharing at both the procedure and outcome levels. A pilot program is already underway to build a multi-hospital specialty group of cardiologists. The President has begun to hire more cardiologists in an effort to improve the heart health of the minority and immigrant population.
At the present time, there are only three full time cardiologists in each of the five acute care hospitals in the pilot program. In some cases the three are serving as many as 1.5 million patients. The Cardiology Initiative Dr. Chu has outlined will build a group of 15 cardiologists, who have credentials to work and refer in any of the five HHC hospitals included in the group. Financial incentives will be offered in order to recruit the best doctors and the comprehensive cardiology program will also emphasize the role of exercise, diet, and non-smoking in controlling risk factors. The program will be launched July 1st.
Dr. Chu stressed the importance of prioritizing and determining the areas in which a health care system can make an impact. He used as an example the Corporationís recent Asthma Initiative including the use of Asthma vans, which go out into those neighborhoods with the Cityís highest asthma rates. "It used to be that 20% of our pediatric admissions were for asthma, today 4% of our pediatric admissions are for asthma," the President said adding, "Keeping our kids healthy is a very important priority."
In summing up his approach for eliminating racial disparities in healthcare, Dr. Chu emphasized establishing multi-hospital specialty groups, increasing case finding within HHC communities, and redesigning systems to make it easier for HHC patients to access specialty care. In addition to cardiology, future initiatives include increasing prostate and colon cancer screenings and in the area of behavioral health, investing in the establishment of a treatment and recovery model and expanding the continuum of services that HHC provides.
The First Annual Conference on Urban Health was sponsored by HHCís Generations+/Northern Manhattan Health Network, the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, Downtown Bronx Medical Associates and the New York Medical College.
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation is a $4.3 billion public benefit corporation that operates eleven acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing homes, six diagnostic and treatment centers, over 100 community health clinics, a certified home health agency and a health maintenance organization (HMO), MetroPlus.