Near West Side Initiative receives funding support

WestSideInitiativeA collaboration in the Near West Side of Syracuse between Nojaim Brother's Grocery Store, St. Joseph's West-side Family Health Center, the YMCA of Greater Syracuse, the Near West Side Initiative, and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University has received funding from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to support a program to improve the health of persons prone to developing diabetes. This collaboration focuses on ways in which access to healthy food and making healthy food choices can make a real difference in controlling chronic disease, particularly diabetes. "Providing access to high-quality health care for people who need it is core to our mission as a nonprofit health plan," said Arthur Vercillo, M.D., regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. "We're pleased to support the Near West Side Initiative to expand the collaboration between traditional and non-traditional health care providers for our neighbors in the community."

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield funds will help to establish an intervention that builds on the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program  (DPP), which has proven to be effective in the management of pre-diabetes. The enhanced Diabetes Prevention Program experiment involves linking primary care at the Westside Family Health Center with nutritional food available at the retail level at Nojaim Brother's Grocery Store.  "We have been proud to provide access to food and nutrition to the Near Westside community for 94 years - we have witnessed firsthand the adverse and destructive effect our nation's food systems have tolled on the health of folks living in impoverished communities and we have great expectations that this collaborative effort can serve as a new model of delivering nutrition and healthcare to communities with similarities to the Near Westside  of Syracuse", said Paul Nojaim.

In addition, the funding will provide partial support for the development and implementation of an information system at the retail level (a "Healthy Rewards" program) that will collect data about participants' food choices and transfer it to the clinical setting (West-side Family Health Center)  so that interventions to support access to healthy food and food choices can be tailored to participants. "St. Joseph's cares deeply about the health of its patients, their families and the communities in which they live," said Kathryn Ruscitto, president and CEO, St. Joseph's. "We are pleased to join our partners, now including Excellus, in this leading-edge collaboration to improve the health and wellness of Syracuse's Near West side population."

This intervention will collaborate with the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program. Executive Director Cheryl Pusztai at the Syracuse YMCA said:   "The Y  is dedicated to strengthening our community through healthy living and we know real progress is possible only when we work with others who share our commitment. Together with our partners in Syracuse's Near West Side, we know we can improve the health of people in need. And as they grow stronger - for themselves and their families - it strengthens our entire community."

Maarten Jacobs,  Director of the Near West Side Initiative, said: "The Near Westside Initiative is thrilled to be a part of this diverse group of partners tackling some of the main health challenges in our community.  By linking the grocery store and the health clinic, and by engaging residents at every turn, we have a unique opportunity to address pre-diabetes in a more holistic way than ever before. "

This partnership presents an opportunity to link nutrition with primary health care, bridging medical care services and consumer decisions about what to buy and eat. Lerner Center Director and faculty member at the Central New York Master of Public Health Program  Tom Dennison said: "We are excited to facilitate this project with this unique set of partners, building off of the good work accomplished to date by the Near West Side Initiative. This grant allows us to address pre-diabetes in a new way, and better understand the role grocery stores can play in addressing community health in cooperation with primary care."