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In Vivo
Breakthrough
 New Alzheimer’s Gene Found
CUMC researchers
Mailman School health educator Harmon Moats counsels an employee of Minisink Townhouse, part of the New York City Mission Society, about ways to quit smoking.
To improve employee health (and their bottom line), many big businesses offer their employees wellness programs that help people quit smoking, lose weight, eat more healthfully, and exercise more.
   In Harlem, however, small businesses predominate and many do not have the resources to provide health insurance, much less wellness programs.
   Which is why one day this winter, Mailman health educators Harmon Moats and Analucia Gutierrez carried a bag packed with pedometers, blood pressure cuffs, and a weight scale to Manhattan Bridge, a small nonprofit Harlem community organization.
   Mr. Moats and Ms. Gutierrez work for the Harlem Business Wellness Initiative (HBWI), the first program in the country that delivers a mobile wellness program to small businesses. Because many worksite wellness programs have been successful, the initiative’s principal investigator, Peter Messeri, Ph.D., deputy chair of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, decided to create a mobile wellness program and test the idea in the small businesses of Harlem. The goal is to encourage people to eat well, exercise and get regular physical checkups.
   HBWI is a partnership of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Harlem Hospital Center, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The health promotion and disease prevention activities are based on the health department’s “10 Steps to a Longer and Healthier Life.” HBWI’s Business Community Advisory Board and Medical Advisory Committee have been instrumental in developing the project and providing entrée into the Harlem business community. Funding for the HBWI is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
   “Many employees in Harlem are very young but work long hours, are under a lot of stress, and we’re seeing that many already have high blood pressure,” says Maria Caban, the initiative’s project manager.
   The initiative’s educators have taken the program to dozens of delis, beauty salons, art galleries and other businesses.
   For workers who lack health insurance, the educators work with Alianza Dominicana, a local group that helps the uninsured find affordable insurance. Employees who need affordable healthcare are referred to Renaissance Health Care Network, the Thelma C. Davidson Adair Medical and Dental Center, and the Ambulatory Care Network of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, all of which charge on a sliding scale.
   “If the program is a success, it will be a good model for hospital outreach programs or the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to use for businesses with only a few employees,” Dr. Messeri says. “If mobile health promotion programs work as well in Harlem as in large corporations, they can have a big impact on the health of those in medically underserved communities.”

—Susan Conova

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