Grant Aims to "Transform" Syracuse Communities by Addressing Root Causes of Poor Health

Mar 3, 2016

St.  Joseph’s Hospital and several partner organizations are hoping a new three-year,$1.5 million dollar grant will help to make communities healthier by addressing the root causes of poor health.  Syracuse was one of six communities to be awarded a grant.

Dr. Bechara Choucair is Senior Vice President for Safety Net Transformation and Community Health at Trinity Health, which awarded the grant.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Dr. Bechara Choucair says he knew almost immediately that Syracuse would be a top contender.  He’s Senior Vice President for Safety Net Transformation and Community Health at Trinity Health, which awarded the grant.

"When I was reading Syracuse application, I could feel the energy, I could feel the commitment from the community partners, the community coalition that's really been working on transforming communities for so long, that has track records, whether it's here on the Near Westside, or the north side, doing all kinds of work with the health department, and other sectors, with the school district."

Choucair says in his short visit to Syracuse, he felt that energy magnified 100 fold, which he says will translate to community transformation.  County health commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says it starts with the all important building block of nutrition.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"We will be able to enhance our work with small retail venues and corner stores.  We will support them in offering healthy food options, for example, fruits and vegetables, grain and high fiber foods, and the list is long."

Dr. Luis Castro has been a primary care physician at St. Joseph's West on Seymour Street for 17 years.  while he’s had a role in improving care, Castro says education is key.

"Healthy living takes time and energy.  Yet, many of our individuals struggle with what it means to eat healthy, they struggle with the term 'what exactly does healthy mean?' And, how do I stretch those already limited dollars.  At the Westside clinic where I work, we continue to build awareness of community resources that lead to a healthy lifestyle and access to healthy foods."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  That includes new programs like the NuVal system at Nojaim Brothers supermarket, which scores the nutritional value of food.  

Director of the Near Westside Initiative Maarten Jacobs says he’s focusing on getting residents more physically active by turning Wyoming Street into the neighborhood’s main street for exercise.  Starting this summer, a recreational space with equipment for adults and children will go up outside the Saltmaker space.  Jacobs says there will be more activity down the block in an empty lot near WCNY.   

"That vacant lot will be transformed into what we'll call Performance Park, which will be a space for the community to set up farmer's markets, community performances, and now through this grant, phase two of Movement on Main."        

Jacobs says Movement on Main is an idea born several years ago to improve the physical environment to stimulate movement and exercise.   Officials hope better nutrition, more physical activity, and reduced tobacco use will all lead to lower obesity rates and fewer cases of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.