|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2008
Lincoln Hospital Health Literacy Activist Among Ten Americans to Receive $125K Award for Improving Taxi Drivers' Health
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Honors Maria Ramos as National Health Leader
(Bronx, New York - 10/31/08) Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center announced today that Maria Ramos, a longtime New York City health literacy activist is one of ten Americans to receive the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation 2008 Community Health Leaders Award for creating the hospital's free health screening and education program that has served 4,000 taxi and limousine drivers in the South Bronx and East Harlem.
As Director of Community Health Education and Outreach, Ms. Ramos created a one-hour express care program that delivers health education and life-saving screenings to taxi drivers by deploying hospital staff to 70 taxi hubs. Using dispatch radios, Ms. Ramos' team promotes the screening events, which include free flu shots, glucose checks, blood pressure tests and appointments for prostate, breast and colon cancer screenings. The program also helps drivers sign up for health insurance programs. Drivers served are predominantly Dominican, West African, Colombian and Venezuelan male immigrants between the ages of 21 and 60. Most are uninsured.
"Many taxi drivers suffer from poor circulation and other medical conditions resulting from the sedentary nature of their work and poor eating habits that can lead to obesity and diabetes," said Ms. Ramos. "Many are frustrated with language and communication barriers, lack of insurance and fears that their immigration status will prevent them from getting much needed medical treatment or preventative screenings. Others are just too busy driving their taxis for long hours in order to make enough money to feed their families and pay the bills."
The RWJ annual award honors extraordinary men and women from all over the country who conquer huge obstacles and take commanding action in local communities to tackle some of the most challenging health care problems facing the nation. Awardees are celebrated with national recognition and $125,000.
"Maria Ramos' commitment to her community drives her out-of-the-box thinking that all communities need to adapt to meet constantly evolving challenges," said Janice Ford Griffin, RWJ national program director for the award. "Maria is tenacious in her efforts to figure out what will work and how to make it happen."
Ms.Ramos was selected along with nine other health leaders across the country from a pool of 800 applicants. She received the award on October 29 at a special ceremony honoring each of the 2008 recipients in San Diego.
"Reaching communities that are challenged by high disease prevalence, and providing improved access to health information, preventive screening and patient navigation, are consistent with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's solid commitment to serve as the health care safety net for the city's poorest, least enfranchised residents," said Lincoln Hospital Executive Director Jose R. Sanchez. "Through Maria Ramos' ingenuity and initiative, we are partnering with community-based organizations to heighten public awareness of significant healthcare issues specific to the community; thereby decreasing the pervasiveness of preventable diseases."
The Foundation's award consists of a $20,000 personal gift to awardees and $105,000 to support their work. Addressing ways in which this grant will be utilized, Ms. Ramos stated, “I am personally committed to do my part to eliminate disparities in health among the communities I serve. This grant will greatly enhance our ability to continue to reach out to populations that are confronting obstacles in accessing health care. After a careful assessment of needs, the monies will be appropriately allocated to expand life-saving screenings that provide early intervention of disease to help eradicate health disparities.”