EmblemHealth Program Making New Yorkers Healthier One Community At A Time

photo of man and woman holding plate of food in front of purple signageEmblemHealth is one of New York’s leading health insurance companies. Formed in 2006 by the merger of Group Health Incorporated and HIP Health Plan of New York, their mission is to improve the health and wellness of all New Yorkers.
And now they have taken their efforts one step further with a new program, EmblemHealth Live Healthy. The Live Healthy program offers free fitness, cooking and healthcare education classes in underserved neighborhoods. EmblemHealth also has programs that provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer months.
With health and wellness programs in short supply in various communities in the city, EmblemHealth and its nonprofit partners came up with the concept of a centralized “hub” where residents could easily access these types of programs. These community “hubs” offer a range of services to help residents live healthier lives.
From 2010 until earlier this year, CAMBA (which provides economic development, education & youth development, family support, HIV/AIDS, housing and legal services) and the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition (GBHC) offered free fitness classes as one part of a three-year federally funded program called Brooklyn Partnership to Drive Down Diabetes (BP3D). Later on, GBHC and EmblemHealth discussed building off the program?s success and expanding elements of the program to fill the needs of the Brooklyn community.

?We believe that partnering with organizations in these communities will increase access to the programs that help people live healthier lives,? says David Flemister, director, Brand Strategy and Community Marketing at EmblemHealth. ?GBHC understands the needs of their community, and this program was specifically developed to help address those needs.?

?Having studied and also disseminated community assessments throughout Central Brooklyn, results found that residents knew their risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes,? adds Stephen Beasley, program supervisor, GBHC. ?And we also found that our residents are more likely to access these resources if they are affordable, hosted close by and offered by members of their community. With EmblemHealth, we have built a coalition of support both among community groups and the residents of this neighborhood. The result is that every evening, our classes are filled.?

The GBHC and the EmblemHealth Live Healthy program is currently focusing on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighborhood, one of Brooklyn?s lowest-income communities which is sandwiched between Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick. Why this area? According to a neighborhood report from the Brooklyn District Public Health Office entitled ?Obesity in Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick,? obesity and overweight issues are common in residents of all ages.? In fact, more than 1 in 4 adults are obese and more than 6 in 10 are overweight or obese putting residents of these neighborhoods at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Through the end of 2013, the organizations are offering free classes twice weekly at the CAMBA Beacon Program, a community center at a local high school.?Here, people are learning about healthy holiday recipes with a Caribbean twist compliments of Celebrity Chef Dawn Skeete of Jamaica Grill. Participants can enjoy total body conditioning classes, and also exercising to Afro-Caribbean drum beats in the Marcelle William?s Balanta?Fitness Dance Class that is offered.
The group?s goal is to continue the program through 2014 and beyond, with 12-week cycles in multiple locations throughout Central Brooklyn.
The EmblemHealth Live Healthy program is free-of-charge and is made possible through a partnership with EmblemHealth and the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition. And the GBHC partnered with CAMBA.

Photo: Margot Jordan