In the vibrant, multi-ethnic neighborhoods of Flatbush, Brooklyn, more than one of four adults is obese, and more than half of all adults in those communities report doing no physical activity at all. As a result, the second-leading cause of death in Flatbush is heart disease.
The Haitian-American Community Coalition (HCC), which champions the health of Haitian and Caribbean communities in Flatbush and beyond, has been working to change that through its “Fitness for Flatbush” program, with Zumba-like aerobics and cardiovascular fitness classes in its welcoming community room. But because HCC needed to charge a small fee for classes, participation didn’t meet expectations.
EmblemHealth recognized the powerful potential of HCC’s work and sponsored Fitness for Flatbush, allowing HCC to offer free Zumba and kickboxing classes two days a week, starting in June of 2013. “We had 20 participants sign up the first week, and that increased to over 100 within the first month,” says Andre Peck, MD, Executive Director of HCC. “By the end of our six-month pilot period, we had over 600 registrants, with 50-100 participants in each class — as young as 4 and as old as 80. We heard from people reporting that their cholesterol levels were dropping and their doctors were taking them off their diabetes medications.”
The program was so successful that EmblemHealth has made HCC’s Fitness for Flatbush a partner in its new Small Steps program, a rapidly-expanding series of free fitness classes, cooking demos and health care education in collaboration with trusted local nonprofit groups. “We’ve now moved from two days to four days of classes to meet the growing demand,” says Fuljens Henry, HCC’s Deputy Executive Director. “We are so thankful to have this partnership with EmblemHealth.”
Pictured above (left to right) are Andre K. Peck, MD, HCC Executive Director; Cassandra Phifer, Fitness for Flatbush Instructor; and Fuljens Henry, HCC Deputy Executive Director.