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URMC Community Health Program Opens New City Home

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Eastman Building -- the Center for Community Health's new home -- was a part of the University of Rochester's original Prince Street campus.

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) today opened the doors on a new home for its community-based health initiatives. The Center for Community Health’s new location at 46 Prince Street marks a return to the original University of Rochester campus and consolidates several outreach and research programs into a single site that is more accessible to the community. The location also includes an innovative new health resource that connects community member via web-conferencing to librarians at the University’s medical school. 

“The health care challenges that we face today require community-based solutions,” said URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D. “This building, which harkens to the University’s roots, heralds what we believe will be a new era of regional collaboration in efforts to better understand the region’s health problems, develop and measure the effectiveness of new interventions and disease management programs, and strengthen health partnerships on a regional scale.”

“Like many cities in America, Rochester faces a long list of health challenges, including significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in health,” said Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., M.S., director of the Center for Community Health. “While these problems are daunting, Rochester has demonstrated on many occasions – be it reducing the incidence of lead poisoning, eliminating disparities in immunizations, or reducing the number of women who die from breast cancer – that when we come together as a community and tackle these problems, we can not only succeed, but we can be a model for other communities.”

The new location contains the Healthy Living Library, a unique community resource that will help advance health literacy by providing a wide array of health information resources and services. The library will feature books, videos, pamphlets, and computer workstations with web-camera access to librarians at the Edward G. Miner Library in the School of Medicine and Dentistry who can help field health-related questions. For example, a person who has just been diagnosed with diabetes can have a “virtual” discussion with a URMC librarian who will help direct them to resources to find out more about the disease, including dietary recommendations, current treatment options, and even local clinical trials. Both the library and the Healthy Living Program are made possible by funding from New York State Senator Jim Alesi.

“My continued commitment to the Healthy Living Program and new funding for the Health Literacy Library reflects my ongoing interest in serving the health needs of our community,” said Senator Alesi. “I am proud to be associated with the partnership approach that is the cornerstone of the Center for Community Health. This is a prudent investment that can improve our local economy, as well as our quality of life.”

The move to Prince Street brings together programs that were scattered in several different locations under one roof and provides the Center with room to grow. And, more importantly, it moves the Center out of the URMC campus and to a city location that is more central and accessible to the population it serves. The Center currently includes approximately 30 staff members and consolidates the following programs in the Prince Street building:  

The Health Partnership of Monroe County (HPMC) is a coalition of providers and community organizations that provides breast, cervical, and colon cancer screening to individuals without insurance or whose health insurance does not pay for screenings. The program also helps clients with follow-up testing and applying for Medicaid coverage for treatment, if necessary. This year, HPMC began offering coverage for human papilloma virus (cervical cancer) vaccine.

The Communicable Disease Program is collaboration between URMC, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the New York State Department of Health that works with doctors and labs in the region to monitor and assess the health impact of a variety of infectious diseases and evaluate methods for their prevention and control. Last year, Rochester was chosen as one of four sites nationally to monitor the impact of the new cervical cancer vaccine. 

The Healthy Living Program/Vida en Salud is a unique, nationally-recognized faith-based physical activity and health promotion program that helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage chronic diseases. The program is a partnership between URMC and the Greater Rochester YMCA and builds upon existing networks within the African-American and Latino faith community to identify and recruit, host sessions, and create a supportive environment for participants. 

The Greater Rochester Practice Based Research Network is a network of community physicians working with researchers to improve primary care. The network currently includes more than 75 practices, encompassing internal medicine, family medicine, medicine-pediatric, and pediatric practices.

The Center for Community Health also helps develop and coordinate ongoing URMC care, research, and education programs in collaboration with Monroe County, the Rochester City School District, and numerous grassroots and faith-based organizations, social service providers, community-based clinics, business partners, foundations and private philanthropists in such areas as obesity, lead poisoning, violence prevention, sexual behavior, mental health, smoking cessation, and chronic disease management. The Center also plays a central role in the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and leads efforts to increase community and physician participation in clinical research.

Rochester has long been a pioneer in the field of community health. URMC currently has more than 120 community health service, education, and research programs underway which receive more than $10 million in funding and serve over 90,000 individuals. That is in addition to the $56 million the Medical Center provides in uncompensated care, charity care, and bad debt on a yearly basis. These programs not only deliver critical services to underserved populations in Rochester but they also represent research that informs public policy and guides the development of new and effective public health initiatives.

“Many institutions talk the talk when it comes to community health, but we have shown that we also walk the walk,” said David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Since the founding of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, community-based outreach and research has been a part of our DNA and is ingrained in not only the way we deliver health care, but how we train the next generation of physicians and develop new ways to translate scientific discovery into new ways to understand, treat, prevent, and cure disease.”

The Center for Community Health is now located at the nexus of important Rochester-area social service organizations. The United Way of Greater Rochester and the Red Cross of Rochester are adjacent to the Center’s new location on Prince Street. 

The move to Prince Street is also, in a manner of speaking, a return to the University’s roots. The Center’s new home, the Eastman Building, was built in 1903-04 and was a part of the original University of Rochester campus. In the 1930s the men’s college moved to the University’s current location on the Genesee River. The women remained at the Prince Street campus until in 1955, when they joined the men on the River Campus. The Eastman Building served as a University science building and, for a time, was home to research in anemia by George Whipple, the founding dean of the University’s medical school, work that would later earn Whipple a Nobel Prize in medicine. 

The building also reinforces the ties to the benefactor who helped shape the University’s community health vision. It was George Eastman who, in agreeing to fund the creation of the School of Medicine in 1920, directed the University to use its skills and talents “to make Rochester one of the healthiest communities in the world.”

Media Contact

Mark Michaud

(585) 273-4790

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