From Maxwell Perspective...
Lerner Center is partnering with other local institutions to bring better
health options to Syracuse’s Near Westside.
residents of Syracuse’s Near Westside — one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods
— access to and affordability of healthy foods has long been a challenge.
Representing the Near Westside coalition are (from left) Paul Nojaim, president and owner, Nojaim Brothers Supermarket (the site of this photo); Maarten Jacobs, director, Near Westside Initiative; Roberto Martinez, project coordinator at the Lerner Center, and Rebecca Bostwick, Lerner Center program director. An additional partner, not represented above, is St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center.
Maxwell School’s Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion is trying to change
that, aided by a recent $250,000 grant from the New York State Health
Foundation. The grant supports a program that teams a local grocery store and
primary care center to increase residents’ knowledge of, access to, and
purchase of healthier foods.
Near Westside is an area plagued by high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other
chronic illnesses,” says Rebecca Bostwick ’04 MPA, program director of the
Lerner Center. “Realizing that behavior change takes a long time, we’re trying
to create an environment that would motivate somebody to try something
precisely the kind of impact Sid Lerner (a 1953 graduate of SU’s Newhouse
School) and his wife, Helaine, had in mind when they funded the Lerner Center
for Public Health Promotion four years ago: to use research and science to
guide public health policy and community health initiatives.
all of the Lerner Center’s work, the project is a collaborative partnership
bringing the academic expertise of the center together with community
stakeholders to promote health. The key partners in this project are the Near
Westside Initiative, Nojaim Brothers Supermarket, and St. Joseph’s Hospital
Health Center, which runs a primary care center across the parking lot from
Nojaim’s. The plan is to use the nutritional scoring system NuVal to rank
every item in the store and display those ratings through educational signage,
social marketing, and programming.
Lerner Center is also working with the nutritionist at the primary care center
to develop complementary programming using the NuVal scores to help patients
cook and eat healthier within their budgets.
want to educate consumers about healthier alternatives to foods they are
purchasing,” says Bostwick. “We’re trying to create a loop of constant positive
activity that meets people where they’re at and isn’t overwhelming.”
trying to create an environment that would motivate somebody to try something
— Rebecca Bostwick,
Program Director, Lerner Center
have a track record. The Lerner Center is working with Nojaim’s to develop a
Healthy Rewards shopping program, which offers incentives to consumers for
making healthy food purchases; and a fruit and vegetable “prescription” program
administered by Primary Care Center-West next door.
Lerner Center’s public health projects in Central New York serve as an
incubator for programs that might someday be replicated nationwide. The Center
also supports three Lerner Fellows — graduate students in public health — and
an endowed professorship. Former Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia
Morrow M.D. was recently named the inaugural occupant of that post.
Dennison, director of the Lerner Center, believes one reason for its Near
Westside success is their partner-based approach, which is respectful of people
living in the community. “We didn’t go into the neighborhood and say, ‘We think
we know what your issues are and we’re going to solve them,’” he says. “We took
the time to listen to our residents, to listen to our partners.”
“Our work is in
partnerships,” says Bostwick. “We’re bringing additional money and positive
attention to the neighborhood and we consider that a success.”
— Renée Gearhart Levy
This article appeared in the summer 2015 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2015 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.