BPHC is excited to have The Bronx Health Link, Inc. (TBHL) as a partner on our Community Health Literacy (CHL) program that connects community members to health insurance, primary care and other health care resources that keep people healthy.
TBHL was founded in 1998 through a collaborative effort involving the Bronx Borough President’s Office, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Our Lady of Mercy Center and St. Barnabas Hospital.
Led by Executive Director Barbara “Bobbi” Hart since 2013, TBHL’s mission is to help people achieve health equality through research, advocacy and education. As Bobbi states, collaboration is key to TBHL’s mission. “We bring institutions and professionals together to talk, advocate and work jointly on education and outreach projects.”
Bobbi’s robust history in community public health fuels her mindset that the best way to get things done is to be out in the community.
TBHL informs, empowers and links community residents to health and community supports including family planning, pregnancy and newborn care, immigrant and early childhood education programs.
“We talk to patients and families about mammograms, diabetes prevention, breastfeeding and advocating for themselves,” she says. “We are in schools discussing image, reproductive health and smoking cessation.”
This model is a focal point for the organization’s Community Health Literacy program, which is working to connect “under-utilizers” of our health care system to services and resources that keep them healthy and prevent the need for hospital care.
“There are a vast number of people who don’t have PCPs or even know that they are eligible for health insurance,” says Bobbi.
Marcia Stoddard Pennant, a community health worker with TBHL, is a member of the CHL team that is bringing this information to the community. While TBHL’s outreach plan includes educational events, informational materials and social media, the heart of its strategy is through direct touch and follow-up.
The CHL team goes deep into neighborhoods meeting people where they live and work – in laundromats, beauty salons, barber shops, shelters and supportive housing sites. The team meets with business owners and their clients and remains flexible regarding the period of time they spend at a location. “We stay as long as we’re needed,” says Pennant.
TBHL also works closely with faith-based organizations. “If a minister asks us to go out to his church on a Sunday morning because that is where the people will be, then that is where we go. That is how we build trust. They know they can call on us to help their members.”
Community education at TBHL extends beyond patients to providers – educating them on how to talk to patients and understand their needs.
As a skilled advocate, TBHL convenes partners, researchers and policy makers who are working on shared health policy goals like access to quality, affordable health care.
Bobbi admits that advocacy is one of her favorite parts of her job. TBHL has ongoing meetings with legislators and community boards to garner their support for their work and make sure community members are aware of their protections. “The people who volunteer for local Bronx community boards are some of the hardest working people in our community and have connections throughout our neighborhoods.
A major focus includes the economic and social conditions like homelessness, discrimination, language barriers, drug abuse, and poverty, which can take priority over families’ health care needs. TBHL completes an annual community health needs assessment on health care access and services that it shares with policy makers throughout the borough and which drives its advocacy agenda.
“Every human being has a right to health care,” she says. “Our goal is to heal our community. We do it with justice as our guide.”
(published January 26, 2017)