Primary Care

April 6, 2012

Above: Staff and supporters of the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center celebrate the opening of their new location. (Image courtesy of Kathryn Kirk) 

Taking on Health Disparities, Block-by-Block

A new national report out this week offers some discouraging news: Brooklyn ranks 54th (out of 62) among New York State’s healthiest counties.

What’s keeping us at the bottom? Social and economic factors like poverty and unemployment are major contributors. Add to that poor local clinical care: our high number of uninsured, low number of primary care physicians, and above average preventable hospital stays. Plus all the downsides of living in a crowded city: air pollution, lack of access to recreational facilities, and a large concentration of fast food options.

By 2016, 32 million more Americans will have health insurance under the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act. The law puts increased emphasis on primary care—the visits that provide quick and early treatment, keep chronic illness at bay, and ensure that our children are growing up healthy. Yet in many of Brooklyn’s communities, regular doctor’s office visits simply aren’t routine—symptoms go untreated and the emergency room is often the first option for care. Exacerbating this problem? Several hospitals serving our communities are failing financially—leaving us in the midst of a mounting health crisis.

Yes, it’s an upsetting prognosis. But there are positive changes happening right now in the heart of Bed-Stuy, which demonstrate that community-based medicine still has a future in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center opened a 38,000-square foot facility on Fulton Street, just down the block from their previous location, which often had lines out the door of patients waiting to be seen.

As one of the first funders of the project (as Independence Foundation), we put up $500,000, which was leveraged into an additional $1 million from the Starr Foundation. The new primary care center is four times the size of the old location, with a boosted capacity to treat more than 20,000 patients annually. It's also home to a pediatrics unit, multiple specialists, and a dental office.

(Images courtesy of Kathryn Kirk)
"The Brooklyn Community Foundation was there at the beginning to help the Bedford Stuyvesant community achieve its dream of building a state-of-the-art health and wellness center for the community. We are so pleased that our partnership has continued over the years to this moment when the doors open to a new day of high quality primary healthcare for the community. We look forward to the many health benefits this will bring to Bedford Stuyvesant."
- Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber

Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center is out to prove that convenient, neighborhood-focused care is a necessary tool in tackling health disparities, and the Brooklyn Community Foundation, believing in this strategy, is backing their efforts with a new $25,000 marketing grant through our Caring Neighbors Fund, to help them recruit thousands more patients and change the culture of healthcare in the neighborhoodto ensure that the center succeeds and residents become greater stewards of their families’ health. 



Additionally, we’re working with the Coalition for the Improvement of Bed-Stuy (CIBS) to promote healthy nutrition in the neighborhood through food access and food justice efforts. After our successful first-ever Food and Family Day last October, we’re deep into the planning stages for our next event, which will be bigger, better, leafier, and crunchier. Stay tuned!
Health is not just a national issue, or a state issue—it’s a community issue. Our choices are a reflection of our local medical centers, the bodegas, restaurants, and grocers on our blocks, the meals and lessons our children receive at school, and the stability of our homes and jobs. In next Friday’s update, we’ll look closer at how stable, affordable homes in Bed-Stuy are providing the foundation for a healthier and stronger community. 

What's Happening Across Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at and follow us at

Brooklyn is (Baby) Booming 
According to new Census estimates, Brooklyn has gained nearly 28,000 people since April 1, 2010. Our borough recorded the highest rate of natural increase, or births over deaths, in the state. Read the full story in the New York Times here.

Nonprofit Excellence Awards Now Accepting Applications
Apply through May 18th for the 2012 Nonprofit Excellence Awards, which recognize and promote management excellence and best practices that help nonprofits better service their communities and achieve their missions. Winning organizations will be recognized at an awards presentation in November. Winners will receive cash awards and special mention in New York Magazine, among other prizes. Details here.

"In Pursuit of Freedom" Collaboration
Don't miss Color Between the Lines, April 26 - May 24 in Fort Greene, the first part of a powerful new collaboration from three of our grantees -- Irondale Ensemble Project, Weeksville Heritage Center, and Brooklyn Historical Society -- exploring the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn. Details and tickets.