New York City Housing Authority

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Residents Helping Residents in New
Community Health Care Program

When it comes to their health, the residents of Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens are in good hands. Eleven New York City Housing Authority residents graduated from a new training program on March 15th, and will now become "Community Health Navigators."

Under supervision from a newly created non-profit organization called Healthy Families, the Community Health Navigators will conduct surveys throughout Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens. The surveys will help to assess health issues that residents are facing and to identify barriers that are preventing residents from getting the health care they need.

Healthy Families Community Health Navigator Program

Healthy Families Program Director, Necole Brown (center) united Navigators in training, like Lillian Colozo (left), with LICH physicians.
Photo credit: Kevin Devoe

Once the survey results are analyzed, the Navigators will work with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), Healthy Families, and the nearby Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to overcome barriers such as, lack of health insurance or limited English proficiency. "Our main focus is to get people connected to a primary care physician to prevent disease," said Healthy Families' Program Director Necole Brown.

One of the new Navigators, Marguerite Scott, who has been the Resident Association President of Gowanus Houses for nine years, said she was "overjoyed" when she first learned about the program, because it enables her to help her neighbors. "I never did have all the answers," said Ms. Scott, whose neighbors often share with her their difficulties of getting health care. "Now with Healthy Families, the answers are all right at my fingertips."

"It's a very exciting program," said NYCHA's Resident Support Services Director Richard Greene. "I've been very impressed with the quality and commitment of the residents hired as Community Health Navigators; many already have a background in the health field."

The creation of Healthy Families was made possible by a substantial grant from John Wren, who, in addition to being president and CEO of the Omnicom Group, is also on the Board of Directors of LICH. If all goes well with the Gowanus/Wyckoff pilot program, the grant will also fund Healthy Families programs at other Brooklyn sites over the course of six years. As announced in a press conference about the program in October 2006, Mr. Wren sees Healthy Families as his way of giving back to the community where he was raised.

By Eileen Elliott
March 21, 2007