Friday, October 28, 2011

Bronx Celebrates ‘Food Day’ With New School Health Initiative

By Jeanmarie Evelly – Norwood News

Today is officially Food Day in New York City–the first annual government-sponsored day to celebrate “real food and healthy eating,” marked by events across the five boroughs with a focus on nutrition.

In the Bronx this morning, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and State Sen. Gustavo Rivera were at Mount St. Ursula Academy in Bedford Park to kick off a new health initiative for local schools. The Family Health Challenge, developed alongside the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center and the Committee of Interns and Residents, asks students and their families to set small goals for themselves–cut out soda one week, eat one piece of fruit a day for another–based on the idea that changing one simple habit at a time will, in the long run, lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Under the initiative, Mount St. Ursula students and those at 50 other sites participating in Montefiore’s School Health program, are given different health guidelines to follow each week for eight weeks: only drink water or low-fat milk during week 1; eat a serving of whole grains every day during weeks 4 and 5; eat only home-cooked meals during week 7.

“There are things that we can do every day to be a little healthier,” Rivera said.
The event was the last leg of Rivera’s “Bronx Can Health Initiative,” which he launched last June, challenging Bronxites to set health goals for themselves. The senator’s own goal was to lose 20 pounds by the end of the challenge, an effort he’s been chronicling for the last five months through a series of events and public weigh-ins.

At this morning’s press conference at Mount St. Ursula’s, Rivera removed his shoes in front of an auditorium full of giggling high school girls and stepped on a scale. The verdict? Down 16 pounds from his original weight, just four pounds shy of his mark and five days to go until his deadline of Oct. 29.

“There’s no better way to do it that to set an example myself,” Rivera said.
Borough President Diaz touted his own health accomplishments to the crowd: he’s lost 14 pounds since last December, the result of cutting out soda and going to the gym several times a week.
“If you try to do too much overnight, it can become discouraging,” Diaz said. “It’s about baby steps–it’s about doing things differently.”

Mount St. Ursula senior Nicole Smith, 17, said her first step is to start accompanying her mother to the grocery store to make sure she’s buying fresh fruits and vegetables for the fridge.

“It’s so difficult here in the Bronx,” Smith said. “It’s much easier to just go to McDonald’s and get a $1 cheeseburger.”

Officials Encourage Bronx Students To Have Better Diets

By NY1 News:



[Click on link above for Video Coverage]

Bronx Senator Gustavo Rivera marked National Food Day on Monday by sharing with students in Fordham that eating better helped him lose weight.
Rivera, who weighed 299 pounds in June, has since lost 16 pounds.

He weighed himself during an event at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula.

Rivera began his dieting when the borough started its CAN Health Initiative, teaching residents everyday tricks to stay fit.

"I'm already eating smaller portions, I'm already making sure I drink more water than anything else, and the bottom line is, these are things that I can maintain," said Rivera.

"We want people to know that you can change your attitude, you can change the way you eat, you can change the way you take care of yourself," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

According to the most recent statistics available from the state's Health Department, 68 percent of Bronx adults are overweight or obese, which is the highest rate in the city.

Monday, October 24, 2011

SENATOR RIVERA AND BOROUGH PRESIDENT DIAZ CELEBRATED FOOD DAY AND LAUNCHED BRONX CAN HEALTH INITIATIVE IN BRONX SCHOOLS

Bronx, NY - State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-Bronx) and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (D-Bronx) attended a celebration of National Food Day on Monday, October 24 at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, which is one of several schools in the Bronx that have adopted the Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge. The Family Health Challenge and the corresponding guidebook that is attached were created through a partnership between SEIU-CIR (SEIU’s Committee of Interns and Residents) and the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center. In addition to the Academy of Mount St. Ursula and other Bronx schools’ participation, the guidebook will be distributed to students at more than 50 public schools through Montefiore Medical Center’s school-based health clinics.

"For the last few months, the Bronx CAN Health Initiative has inspired Bronxites to take responsibility over their own health and make changes to their habits in order to lead longer and healthier lives," said Senator Gustavo Rivera. "Given that issues of obesity, heart disease and diabetes start with the formation of bad health habits at a young age, I am excited that the Bronx CAN Health Initiative is continuing in Bronx schools. It is my hope that the students and families who take on this 8-week challenge will continue to incorporate the lessons they learned as part of the Family Health Challenge into their daily lives."

“The Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge is a perfect example of how members of our Bronx community form partnerships and work together to create great programs that have a large, positive impact on the well-being of the borough. I urge all Bronx students and their families to take on the eight-week Family Health Challenge. The lessons they will learn during these eight weeks can really help the members of our community, young and old, to start making healthier decisions as far as what they eat day to day, and can ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle for Bronxites overall,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Montefiore Medical Center is honored and excited to be a partner in this important initiative, which is all about engaging youth and families in making healthy choices”, said Roberto S. Garcia, Senior Director of The Office of Community Relations at Montefiore. “Montefiore continues to be a leader in providing programs and services that enhance the health of all members of our Bronx community.”

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's latest reports, the Bronx continues to be the unhealthiest county in the state of New York, with higher rates of obesity, diabetes and asthma than other parts of the state. In response to this report and to the crisis of obesity and obesity-related diseases, State Senator Rivera (D,WF-Bronx) and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined with community organizations from throughout the Bronx to launch the Bronx CAN Health Initiative in June of this year.

As part of the health initiative, Senator Rivera vowed to lose 15 to 20 pounds before the end of October. As of October 24th, Senator Rivera had lost 16 pounds. His last weigh-in will be on October 29, 2011 at 1:30PM for the last of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative's monthly health fairs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The “CAN” Initiative keeps going strong with Montefiore


By Adrian Cabreja - Bronx Free Press



Any other cool weekend day on which rain threatened at any moment might have kept local park-goers indoors.
But not this past Sun., Sept. 22nd, when the Montefiore Medical Center, together with New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera, hosted the third Bronx CAN Health Initiative “check-in” at the St. James Park’s Recreation Center on Creston Avenue.
The theme of this event, one in an ongoing series, was preventative care.
“Preventative care is very important because it leads to avoidance [of harmful behaviors], and therefore contributes to greater health. Without health, there is no life,” said Roberto S. Garcia, Senior Director of Community Relations at Montefiore Medical Center.
Over a hundred newly developed health enthusiasts, participants of the borough’s CAN Health Initiative, participated in the fair’s “check-in,” highlighting the program’s continued momentum with local residents.
“This is my third check-in, and I’m trying my best to live a better and healthier life. I am committed to it,” said Linda Babea.
The fair offered information and services on proactive measures that could be taken to prevent illness and to help practice a healthier lifestyle. These included HIV testing, nutritional education and blood pressure screenings, all as a means of preventing and identifying common and sometimes dangerous diseases.
The Montefiore Medical Center Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program’s table proved one of the most compelling to many of those present; its colorful displays and materials went quickly.
Montefiore’s WIC program is a government funded preventative care program, which provides supplemental foods and nutrition-related education to low income women, infants and children.
“Educating low-income families in the necessity of good eating habits is key to a healthier Bronx. Good eating habits are a sure way to prevent many cholesterol and weight-related diseases. Our nutritionists at Montefiore teach women and children how to eat better. Along with teaching them what they need to eat, our nutritionists also teach them how much to eat,” explained Nancy Mejias, a representative for Montefiore’s WIC program.
Montefiore’s WIC program also teaches children how to exercise, as the program is part of their WIC Fit Initiative.
The medical center’s School Health Program also made an appearance at the fair. Their display featured common foods and drinks, and corresponding information about each’s sugar and fat content. To many, it was surprising to discover that a glass of Welch’s Grape Juice had more sugar than a glass of Coca-Cola. According to Montefiore’s School Health Program data, Welch’s Grape Juice has 42.5 grams of sugar per glass while Coca-Cola has 38 grams of sugar per glass.
"Many people assume that certain things are healthier than others. This is where information plays a role," said Lynchy Lezeau of the Montefiore School Health Program.
Along with the information and materials provided, the fair was also the backdrop to Senator Rivera’s routine weigh-in. The Bronx Senator had made a vow to lose twenty pounds by October, but has only lost fourteen. Still, Senator Rivera made good on his commitment to the cause, joining the crowd in a Zumba exercise lesson directly after his weigh-in.  
Senator Rivera was also very pleased with the attendance. “I didn't expect so many to come out today,” he said, taking time from his work-out to thank well-wishers on his ongoing weight loss. “I am proud to say that the Bronx community is taking a great interest in their health and that is inspiring.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sen. Rivera's Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge Guidebooks

State Senator Gustavo Rivera is launching the Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge - a health challenge designed for students and their families to take on together. Senator Rivera has been partnering with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.and other community partners as part of the Bronx CAN (Change Attitudes Now) Health Initiative. The Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge was designed by the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center and Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR-SEIU). The Family Health Challenge guidebooks will be distributed to schools throughout the district through Montefiore Medical Center's school-based health clinics as well as other participating schools such as Mount St. Ursula, who have taken on the challenge.
Sen. Rivera's Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge Guidebook in English

Sen. Rivera's Bilingual Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge Guidebook

The Making of a Liberal Politician, Part III: Senator Makes Health a Priority

By Alex Kratz - Norwood News


Ed. Note: This is the third and final in a series of articles about 33rd District State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who was thrust into the spotlight after defeating the controversial Pedro Espada, Jr. last fall. Rivera represents the entire Norwood News coverage area.
Gustavo Rivera, a state senator for all of nine months, is comfortably in his element. Sitting at the head of a table in a cramped, windowless room deep inside the belly of The Family Health Center on East 193rd Street and Decatur Avenue, Rivera is asking questions and cracking jokes.
“Five different flavors of pork rinds,” Rivera offers as the conversation turns to nutritional options at local bodegas.
Later, he asks about the Center’s Friday food demonstrations and asks if they can help him be a better cook. “I burn water,” he says, and everyone in the room — a conglomeration of public relations specialists, reporters, photographers and Center staffers — laughs. He’s a hit. If politics doesn’t work out for the 33rd district representative, he could make a run at “Last Comic Standing.” (Plus, the multi-talented, 34-year-old Puerto Rican native can sing. Check him out on youtube.)
The Bronx CAN
But for now, Rivera’s more interested in becoming “The Biggest Loser.” The health initiative he launched with the help of the borough president’s office, Montefiore Medical Center and St. Barnabas Hospital — called the Bronx CAN (Changing Attitudes Now) Health Initiative — is based partly on the model of the popular reality television series where obese people compete to see who can lose the most weight. Rivera wants Bronxites to live healthier lives and set healthy goals, like losing weight.
He dedicated his summer to the initiative and, at the same time, his own health. In June, Rivera publically weighed himself in at an NFL-lineman-like 299 pounds and vowed to lose 20 pounds by the end of October. He also vowed not to employ any gimmicky diets or hire a personal trainer.
“I wanted to do it in a way that’s sustainable,” says Rivera.
That means doing everything in moderation and making healthier choices, he says. Smaller portions, less fat, less sugar, more exercise. That’s why he’s doing weekly community walks (look, you don’t need a gym to be fit!) and making appearances at local farmer’s markets (look, right here in your neighborhood, there are alternatives to pork rinds!).
With a month to go, he’s six pounds from his goal. Soon he’ll be more linebacker than lineman.
Rivera didn’t come into office this past January expecting to be the most active and outspoken health advocating elected official in the Bronx. It just made sense, much like his decision to run for office last year after spending a decade running campaigns for other politicians.
For one, he’s the only Bronx representative on the senate health committee. Secondly, according to a recent report, the Bronx is the unhealthiest of all New York’s 62 counties. Something needed to be done, he said. And now, Rivera calmly answers questions about his morning workout routine (mostly cardio, some circuit training, four or five days a week) and what he eats for breakfast (egg and veggie wrap).
A Quick Study
In his first year in office, Rivera is obviously still learning. But his previous experience in Albany (as chief of staff for Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Democratic Conference, among other jobs) and academia (by all accounts, he possess strong study habits and an earnest curiosity) have helped.
Liz Krueger, a senate colleague from Manhattan who helped recruit Rivera into running last year against Pedro Espada, speaks glowingly about the rookie’s precociousness on the senate floor.
“I have colleagues in the senate who have been there for years who are not as comfortable speaking about bills on the floor [as Rivera is],” Krueger said in a phone interview. “The etiquette and the language isn’t easy. Gustavo has shifted gears so quickly and gracefully.”
As a lawmaker, Rivera started his career off with a symbolic nod to his predecessor, controversial lightning rod Pedro Espada — introducing a bill that would require legislators to disclose all outside income. (Espada, who founded a network of nonprofit healthcare centers, was cagey about disclosing his compensation outside of politics. He is now under indictment for embezzling funds from his network and is scheduled to stand trial early next year.) Much of the language from that bill was folded into a larger ethics reform package put together by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo that became law last spring.
Rivera sponsored six other pieces of legislation relating to everything from labor (allowing substitute teachers to receive unemployment benefits during the summer) to public safety (calling for the creation of a database of private security cameras to aid police investigations) to healthcare (granting equal access to specialty care for low-income patients at university hospitals).
One of those six, a law that would allow charitable organizations to post bail for indigent defendants who can’t afford it, passed both chambers late in the session and is now awaiting Cuomo’s signature, the final step in the lawmaking process.
Rivera concedes that Democrats, who control the assembly but not the senate, fell short on some of its goals, including the strengthening of rent regulations (current regulations were extended, not strengthened) and revenue generation (Rivera wanted the millionaire’s tax extended, but instead, it ended).
District ‘In Good Hands’
Colleagues are consistently positive about Rivera, but fellow Bronx state senator, Ruben Diaz, Sr., said he blamed all Democrats, Rivera included, for voting in a budget that cut into education, healthcare and senior services. (Rivera says he voted no on two of the nine budget bills, including the revenue generation bill and the education funding bill.)
Back in the Bronx, Rivera was criticized for failing to promptly set up a district office. Someone even started a Gustavo Watch blog, counting the days he was without a Bronx home base. Rivera blamed the senate bureaucracy for the delay and set up mobile hours at locations throughout the district. He finally secured an office on the Grand Concourse, just south of Fordham Road, in May.
Haile Rivera, a University Heights resident who worked on Espada’s campaign last fall and, like Gustavo Rivera (no relation), worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Florida, said his representative fell short on housing reform and isn’t sure what he accomplished during his first year.
“Aside from the CAN Initiative, the exercise, meet-me-at-the-park thing, not sure what he’s done,” Haile Rivera said. He admitted it was “sad” and the he “liked the guy,” but said he thought his state senator should be focused on helping people find jobs before helping them live healthier lives.
Still, many see a bright future for Rivera.
“This district is in good hands,” said Assemblyman Jose Rivera (again, no relation), whose district is contained in Gustavo Rivera’s district.
The two Riveras, who share a common first name (Gustavo goes by his middle name), also shared a town hall meeting during the summer in Kingsbridge Heights, part of a series of town hall meetings Gustavo Rivera initiated in various parts of his district.
The best thing about Gustavo, Jose Rivera says, is that “he’s a listener. He listens to people.”
And, of course, there’s his singing voice. “The people love it,” Jose Rivera says.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Children's Hospital at Montefiore still on forefront of saving kids' lives

By Sarah Armaghan - Daily News


Ten years and 1.5 million tots later, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore is still winning world renown for innovative medicine, while covering the basics right here in its hometown.
Dotted with Little Mermaid characters painted on the windows, the 10-story building on Bainbridge Ave. in Norwood, the Bronx, that serves the 21-and-under crowd boasts a new $6 million pediatric hybrid catheterization lab.
The lab is the first of its kind in the city, and allows pediatric cardiac surgeons and cardiologists to perform minimally-invasive surgery on child hearts, limiting what would normally be a five-day hospital ordeal to a 24-hour stay.
And an outpatient cancer facility allowed the hospital to be one of the first in the nation to treat some children with the disease while they're at home.
They come in, receive their chemotherapy medicine and go home with backpacks containing the pumps, making it easier for kids who normally spend up to 10 months per year in the hospital.
"Our vision was simple," explained Dr. Philip Ozuah, CHAM's physician-in-chief. "We wanted to be able to look any family in the eye and say 'We can take care of your child, whatever happens.'"
With white rosary beads strung around her neck, 12-year-old Michelle Nguyen, a seventh grader at Our Lady of Refuge School in the Bronx, sat in a hospital bed one day last week, doing her homework.
She is in her third cycle of chemotherapy, and this is her fifth inpatient stay at CHAM since she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July.
"They make it fun for me," said the girl, whose hair is thin from the harsh treatments. "I go to the play room and play [with] puzzles, and I get to talk to other kids who are sick like me - it helps me deal with everything."
Like many parents, Michelle's mother, Mai Nguyen, 37, stays overnight at her child's bedside, sleeping in a reclining chair. There are complimentary meals for inpatients' families so they don't have to eat out three times per day.
Nearly 80% of patients going through the CHAM network are covered by Medicaid. It has 25 satellite offices for primary and specialty care for children across the Bronx, where kids can receive preventive care and treatment for obesity, asthma and diabetes - three of the biggest health battles in the borough.
"We don't turn anybody away," said Dr. Steven Safyer, the president and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center. "Some of these kids come from the poorest neighborhoods and families and don't have primary care - but we make it happen."
In 2004, CHAM made international headlines when it separated 2-year-old Filipino twins - Carl and Clarence Aguirre - who shared one brain. "It had never been successful anywhere before," Ozuah said.
CHAM boasts a 100% heart transplant survival rate, compared to the national norm of about 83%, according to Ozuah.
Plans are in the works to double the size of the hospital by building another 10-story tower next to the existing one to accommodate the overwhelming need.
"Now, we're standing at a threshold," Ozuah said excitedly. "We're looking at the next 10 years with an even more daring vision."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Take Care NY - Flu Shots Available

North Central Bronx Hospital
3424 Kossuth Avenue
October 5, 12,19, 26
11am-2pm

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Senator Rivera Toured Family Health Center Promoting “Bring Your Loved One To The Doctor” Day and Importance of Preventative Medicine


Bronx, NY – Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-Bronx) and Bronx Community Health Network, Inc. (BCHN) took a tour of  The Family Health Center to promote “Bring Your Loved One to the Doctor Day” on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM. Senator Rivera has been partnering with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx Community Health Network, Inc., Montefiore Medical Center, and other community partners as part of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative. The month of September has been focused on highlighting the importance of preventative medicine and accessing healthcare regularly as part of maintaining one’s health.During the tour Senator Rivera weighed himself, took part in a cooking demonstration and also had his blood pressure taken.