Syracuse, NY (March 3, 2016) – At a press conference held today, St. Joseph’s Health announced that the Syracuse Health Coalition has been awarded a grant for $500,000 per year over the next three years as part of Trinity Health’s national “Transforming Communities Initiative.”

Through this initiative, Trinity Health is investing in partnerships across the country that address some of the root causes of poor health to encourage beneficial health care/community organization collaborPartners of the Syracuse Health Coalition include, but are not limited to: St. Joseph’s Health, Onondaga County Health Department, Near Westside Initiative, Northside Urban Partnership, Lerner Center at Syracuse University, and HealtheConnections.

The Coalition partners have already jointly participated in multiple community programs, and meet regularly to discuss current initiatives as well as ideas and opportunities to leverage work and investments. St. Joseph’s Health will serve as the lead organization for this project.

At today’s press conference, remarks were delivered by:

  • Dr. Bechara Choucair, Senior Vice President for Safety Net Transformation & Community Health at Trinity Health
  • Mark Murphy, Senior Vice President for System Development and Ambulatory Care Leadership at St. Joseph’s Health
  • Dr. Luis Castro, Medical Director, Primary Care Center-West, St. Joseph’s Health
  • Maarten Jacobs, Near Westside Initiative
  • Dr. Indu Gupta, Onondaga County Department of Health Commissioner

“This grant will provide St. Joseph’s Health and our community partners a platform from which to leverage several concurrent investments in community health,” said Ruscitto. “The diverse selection of programs benefiting community health will be brought together to maximize resources, minimize duplicative efforts remove barriers to healthy living, better manage chronic diseases, and capitalize on the developing benefits to community health.”

Maarten Jacobs, Director of the Near Westside Initiative, said: “Being awarded this great opportunity by TCI will further create a safe, clean, and fun way for our community – young and old – to exercise in the Near Westside. By transforming a vacant lot in the neighborhood into an active hub for community recreation, we are not only making the lives of individuals healthier, but we are making the whole community healthier in a multidimensional way.”

“For nearly a decade, St. Joseph’s has played a leadership role in the work of Northside UP, advancing economic developing and creating opportunities on the Northside,” says Dominic Robinson, Director of Northside UP and Vice President for Economic Inclusion at CenterState CEO. “This work has been essential to building a foundation for community health and wellness in the neighborhood. The TCI grant helps take this work to the next level, further contributing to neighborhood revitalization but also creating a hub for community health activities on the Northside.”

Rob Hack, President & CEO of HealtheConnections, said: “We see real value in the TCI approach of bringing together diverse organizations, each with their individual roles and strengths, to collectively affect change in our community. This opportunity will boost local capacity to improve health and quality of life for the residents of Syracuse.” 

Tom Dennison, Director of the Lerner Center at The Maxwell School, added: “The investment by Trinity is a testament to the work of St. Joseph’s and the collaborative partners that are a part of this initiative. The Lerner Center has been actively engaged in population health efforts with St. Joseph’s; this grant will allow us to strengthen our work, which will ultimately benefit the residents of Syracuse.”

The first round of initiatives planned for this project include:

  • Tobacco 21 led by SJH’s CNY Regional Center for Tobacco Health Systems, and engage organizations including but not limited to: the Health Department (OCHD), Prevention Network, American Cancer Society, Upstate University Hospital and the American Heart Association
  • Complete Streets led by the OCHD together with the City of Syracuse and other community partners
  • Early Childhood Nutrition Standards led by the OCHD together with other community partners
  • Breastfeeding Policy Enhancement led by OCHD, St. Joseph’s Health, Upstate University Hospital, and other community partners
  • School Board Policy to Increase Physical Activity led by the OCHD together with the School District (SCSD) and other community partners
  • Food and Beverage Standards led by the OCHD together with the SCSD and other community partners
  • Active Living Barriers led by the Near Westside Initiative and Northside UP
  • Healthy Eating Barriers led by the Lerner Center at Syracuse Unversity, Nojaim Brothers Super Market, and St. Joseph’s Health

Dr. Indu Gupta, Commissioner of Health, stated that the Onondaga County Health Department is eager to collaborate with St. Joseph’s Health in the Transforming Communities Initiative. Dr. Gupta said: “The Health Department is well positioned to partner due to our long-standing history of working with the community members in the city of Syracuse, as well as across the county, who are significantly impacted by health conditions caused by poor diet and lack of physical activity.”

The Health Department’s extensive experience in conducting community health outreach, health education, partner mobilization, and policy development will help to launch and sustain these initiatives. The Health Department plans on focusing their work in low income neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse to increase access to healthy foods, exercise, and to encourage residents to engage in healthy behaviors.

“St. Joseph’s and the Syracuse Health Coalition have a strategic collaboration and shared commitment to improving people’s lives. It’s a great investment,” said Bechara Choucair, M.D., senior vice president for Safety Net and Community Health, Trinity Health. “These efforts address key drivers of community health. They’ll work because they represent strong, collaborative local efforts — just the kind needed to create lasting community change.”

Trinity Health’s Transforming Communities Initiative focuses specifically on policy, systems and environmental changes that reduce tobacco use and obesity, which are leading drivers of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs in the United States.

Over the next five years, the combined national effort from Trinity Health will result in the investment of about $80 million in grants, loans, community match dollars and services for a number of communities as collaborating partners work together to improve community health and well-being.