Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has announced the recruiting of “health coaches” to work closely with residents in major public housing projects to improve the health and well-being of public housing tenants in New York City.
The Health Department is now accepting bids to fund this initiative in the New York City Housing Authority-run Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, Butler Houses in the Bronx, and the Queensbridge Houses in Queens.
The program aims to provide tenants with essential screening and workshops to manage chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes while also offering assistance with stress management and smoking cessation.
Additionally, the program hopes to address mental health issues, including depression.
Health coaches will conduct classes to improve nutrition and offer fitness activities such as “shape-up” classes, power walks, and biking groups.
The Health Department is set to allocate over $2.9 million in grants through its fundraising arm, the Fund for Public Health, to hire three contractors to serve each NYCHA project.
This health coaching program initially began as a trial in NYCHA housing complexes in Harlem and East Harlem under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the early findings suggest that the program should be replicated elsewhere.
Reports released show that the Harlem findings included individuals who participated describing a change from good to excellent health by 40%, from 55% to 78%. The health coaching program also saw self-reporting by diabetic participants who claimed their diabetes was under control rise by 46%, from 50% to 77%. The trial also saw residents of the NYCHA project who screened positive for moderate to severe depression decrease by 40%, from 15% to 9%.
Each health coaching program, set to run from January through June next year, will require at least 13 full-time workers, a full-time manager, two full-time supervisors, and 10 community workers.
This program aligns with the department’s mission to improve medical and wellness outcomes in neighborhoods heavily impacted by COVID-19 and suffering from various socioeconomic inequities, which include many public housing residents.
The department emphasized that this health coaching program is part of its efforts to address health inequities rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and discrimination, including racism.
The program has empowered NYCHA residents, including those with low literacy or low English language proficiency, to acquire the knowledge and skills to manage their chronic illnesses better and gain increased access to health-related services.
Health coaching sessions have already been provided to over 1,150 residents living in NYCHA buildings in Harlem, which is approximately 10% of the Health Department’s target population.
Health coaches are tasked with enrolling at least 150-200 residents at each NYCHA complex in Queens, Brooklyn, and The Bronx.
They are also encouraged to conduct farmers market tours and promote the department’s “Health Bucks” project to incentivize residents to purchase and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables to improve their diets.
This wellness initiative closely follows the Health Department’s recent launch of a $4 million “vaccine equity” campaign aimed at reducing infections and deaths from the latest coronavirus strains and the flu, primarily focusing on the city’s underserved communities.