A new health center will open next September on the Stevenson Educational Campus in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The 1700-sq. ft. facility, which will serve 3,500 students, represents a partnership between the Bronx Community Health Network (BCHN) and Montefiore Medical Center. It is being built with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and renovation funds from the New York City Department of Education.
“This is a wonderful occasion, and this center will be a great asset for our Bronx students,” said Professor David Fletcher (Middle and High School Education), Lehman College’s liaison to Stevenson, who has worked for more than five years to make the center a reality. As a BCHN board member, he has become knowledgeable about the health and medical needs of young and older people living in the Bronx.
The facility will serve all the students in the nine mini-schools that are part of the Stevenson Educational Campus.
“The majority of children in the Bronx do not receive consistent or preventative healthcare,” says Professor Fletcher. “Only seven percent of Bronx students from kindergarten through twelfth grade have gone to the dentist for preventative care. Like many disadvantaged Americans with little or no health insurance, a vast majority of residents of the area go to Emergency Rooms for their medical needs.”
Residents in the borough’s poorest sections suffer with disproportionate rates of asthma, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and depression affecting young children. A 2008 study found that of the South Bronx teens interviewed, many had an array of health concerns, such as asthma (28%), were overweight or obese (38%), or ate fewer than five servings of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis (78%).
Professor Fletcher is hoping that the medical center will help change that. “National statistics have shown that when a student goes to a community or school health center,” he says, “they are more likely to take their medicine.”
Then there’s the cost factor, too. “The cost of going to a health center like this one,” notes Professor Fletcher, “is one-fifth of the cost of the E.R. So people are most likely to come back for a follow-up visit and more likely to seek future preventive care.” With the support and collaboration of the principals of the campus schools, along with that of Dr. David Appel, director of Montefiore’s School Health Program, and BCHN Executive Director Eleanor Larrier, a campus health center will become a reality.