URMC Launches New Community Health Initiative

March 23, 2006

Dr. Andy Doniger, Dr. Nana Bennett, Rochester Schools Superintendent Manuel Rivera, Dr. Mac Evarts, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Mayor Robert Duffy

Officials from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, and Rochester City School District Superintendent Manuel Rivera joined together today to announce the creation of a new center to expand and improve community-based health care and prevention services for the greater Rochester region.

Building upon a long history and nationally-recognized leadership in the field, the new URMC Center for Community Health will work in close collaboration with local government, grassroots and faith-based organizations, social service providers, schools, community-based clinics, business partners, foundations and private philanthropists to better identify, understand and target the health challenges confronting the region and expand important health services. 

Rochester is faced with numerous health challenges,” said C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO of URMC. “As one of the primary providers of care in the region, we deal with the results of poor nutrition, exposure to violence, and substance abuse in our clinics every day.  At the same time we recognize that in order to have a meaningful and long-term impact on the region’s health, we have to move beyond the walls of the examining room and into the community to understand and confront these problems.”

The Center for Community Health will be led by Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., M.S.  Bennett is currently the deputy director of the Monroe County Department of Public Health. She will continue to work for the Health Department on a part time basis and brings to the new center more than 15 years of experience in public health and community-based prevention.

“We know that successful, effective and enduring community health programs arise from collaboration with partners in the community,” said Bennett.  “This new center will bring everyone to the table to find ways to strengthen and replicate the programs that we already know are making a difference in people’s lives and help develop new approaches to providing critical services to our most vulnerable populations.  It will also serve as a portal for the community to contact us and help us dedicate our resources to where they are most needed.”

The Center for Community Health will build upon and expand existing URMC community-based programs in the areas of obesity, mental health, fitness/nutrition, tobacco cessation, injury prevention, immunizations, oral/dental health, health screenings, lead poisoning, and others.  It will also strengthen the Medical Center’s ongoing collaboration with Monroe County.  The County Department of Health and URMC currently jointly fund and operate the Center for Rochester’s Health, which oversees several important community health research, education and services initiatives. The new URMC center and Center for Rochester’s Health functions and programs will merge and URMC will seek to develop similar relationships with the surrounding counties. 

Monroe County's Department of Public Health certainly plays a central role in promoting community wellness," said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.  “To expand upon this mission, we must work even more closely with area physicians and our private sector partners. The University of Rochester has clearly taken a leadership role in facilitating this long term collaboration with the establishment of the center for Community Health.  As a community, we should applaud this commitment.  On a personal note, I must say that Dr. Bennett's selection to head-up the center is an excellent decision by the university.  Dr. Bennett has provided an invaluable service to the residents of Monroe County through the years, most notably in the areas of flu planning and infectious disease investigation.  Her leadership on these and so many other health issues will certainly be missed.  While we will still benefit from her service on a part-time basis, I believe that the promise of this new center bodes well for the health of our residents.  We wish her all the best in this new role and we're so pleased that the Department of Public Health will also continue to benefit from her service, directly, on a part-time basis.”

In addition, the Center for Community Health will seek to harness the resources of the Medical Center to support research that enables policymakers to better understand health threats and effective approaches, expand access to clinical services, and continue to integrate community-based training into the education of the next generation of physicians and nurses.

Rochester has been a leader in innovative approaches to health care and this new initiative keeps us on the cutting edge,” said Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy. “I look forward to expanded community-based health care for Rochester because it utilizes collaboration and unity of purpose to solve problems. I want to thank the University of Rochester, Monroe County and the Rochester City School District for providing better access to health services for the residents of Rochester.”

Today’s announcement was held at East High School in Rochester where the University of Rochester School of Nursing and the Rochester City School District have jointly operated a health clinic for students since 1995.  The clinic, which is open throughout the school year and staffed and supported by URMC nurses and physicians, provides a full range of primary care and behavioral health services with over 4,000 student visits per year.  

“To have a sustained impact on our children’s education, we must be part of a community network that supports children and families around the clock,” said Rochester Superintendent of Schools Manuel J. Rivera, Ph.D. “Health issues can and do have a negative impact on student learning. The Center for Community Health will help us continue making inroads in removing barriers to learning that many of our students face.”

URMC’s History of Commitment to Community Health

URMC’s commitment to community health dates back to George Eastman’s founding gift for the medical school, with which he instructed the University to employ its skills and talents to create the world's healthiest community in Rochester

Today, there are more than 250 programs representing over $32 million in community-based research and service programs underway at URMC including telemedicine and teledentistry programs in day care facilities and schools, a student-run health clinic, lead research and abatement programs in inner-city housing, an Hispanic mental health program, a program to eliminate racial disparities in immunization rates, health clinics in city schools, and a community-based pediatrics physician training program, to name a few.

URMC has been recognized on both the state and national level for its leadership in the field of community health.  In 2004, it received the American Association of Medical Colleges’ Outstanding Community Service Award.  Last year the church-based Healthy Living Program received the Innovation in Prevention Award from the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Eastman Dental Center’s mobile dental clinic was awarded the Healthcare Association of New York State’s Community Health Improvement Award.

For Media Inquiries:
Mark Michaud
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