Deputy Mayor Palacio, Health Commissioner Bassett, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito Announce the Launch of New "East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center"

City Council provides $600,000 in funds to develop a new primary care clinic at the site

“Be” media campaign to promote new array of services in Action Center neighborhoods

BE Heard April 4, 2017 — Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett today was joined by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the President and Founding Director of SMART University, Susan Rodríguez, to announce the launch of the East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center, a building under renovation on 158 East 115th Street. The Action Center will bring much needed community space, health, wellness and clinical services to local residents. Speaker Mark-Viverito provided $600,000 in funds to develop a primary care clinic at the site that will open and be operated by Harlem United later this year. Harlem United has been committed to providing quality health services to Harlem residents regardless of their ability to pay, dating back nearly 30 years to the HIV epidemic. Commissioner Bassett also announced the partial opening of Action Centers in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Tremont, in the Bronx. The Action Centers are part of the Center for Health Equity’s mission to strengthen the agency’s work to eliminate health inequities. These neighborhoods have the highest rates of premature death and chronic disease in New York City.

“The Neighborhood Health Action Centers are part of Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to reduce health inequities and expand access to health care across the city. They are designed to meet the diverse needs of communities with high rates of chronic disease and premature mortality,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “By investing in health and social services in communities, for communities, the City renews its commitment to tackle inequality and help New Yorkers live their healthiest lives.”

“Decades ago, the neighborhood health center movement dramatically improved the health of communities in New York City. With the launch of the Neighborhood Health Action Centers, we are bringing this model fully into the 21st century, adding new services and new technologies,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Action Centers provide important space for community-based public health planning and target resources to neighborhoods with high rates of chronic disease and premature death.”

“The work of the East Harlem Neighborhood Action Center is as important as ever in this community that unfortunately still suffers from disproportionate rates of asthma, obesity, diabetes, and other health indicators,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Thanks to a $600,000 investment from the Council, an additional $3 million from the administration, and many years of hard work to revive the center, the building will now be fully utilized and able to provide countless East Harlem residents with direct health care services. Under the current national political uncertainty, expanding this type of access is extremely important. I really want to thank the administration, Commissioner Bassett, Deputy Mayor Palacio, and everyone who helped in making this day a reality and for ensuring East Harlem residents can afford better quality health care.”

Mayor de Blasio committed $3 million in City funds to develop and implement three Health Action Centers in areas with high health needs. Located in former District Public Health Offices, which were opened by Commissioner Bassett in 2003, the East Harlem, Brownsville and Tremont Action Centers — currently at different stages of development — will provide subsidized space for community-based programming and primary care services. Local partners applied for spaces via a request for expressions of interest process and are expected to engage in neighborhood planning to best address community needs.

The Action Center model takes previously underutilized City-owned buildings and houses government social services, successful community-based programs and clinical providers under one roof with the goal of improving the health of residents in neighborhoods with poor health outcomes. The initiative is as part of the City’s effort to address health disparities and reduce infant and adult premature mortality, as stated in the OneNYC plan.

"The Action Centers are an innovative reimagining of the neighborhood health center movement that started in New York City in the early 1900s. Our intention is to build on the power that exists already among our neighborhood residents and partners who voice and experience inequities every day," said Dr. Aletha Maybank, Deputy Commissioner and the Founding Director of the Center for Health Equity. "We, as government, have a responsibility to better co-design and coordinate with all of neighborhood stakeholders — medical providers, community-based organizations, other New York City government agencies — that are also committed to building healthy communities. This is our effort to be relevant, be responsive, be creative, be active, and be present with our families living and our partners located right in our neighborhoods."

“It has been a learning experience to be co-located at the Action Center; it has been enjoyable as the various teams and organizations are really beginning to work together with ease. Referrals to the various programs on site have become a way of life,” said Denise West, Deputy Executive Director of Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Inc. “I believe that the agreement to collaborate, coordinate and see each other as an extension of each other is in full effect. I believe in the purpose and goal of developing this into a neighborhood space where community planning and complimentary services are offered.”

Neighborhood Health Action Centers
Under the co-location model, the Action Centers have health programming related to nutrition, physical activity, teen sexual health, maternal and infant wellness, asthma and programs focused on preventing and managing chronic disease.

The East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center provides the following services:

  • Direct clinical services: Medical providers will give community-based primary care services integrated with behavioral and mental health services.
  • Direct connection to social services: Providers will refer patients to sister agencies and non-profit organizations to connect them to social services. City agencies have offices on site to help residents. The Human Resources Administration (HRA) and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) provide IDNYC enrollment. Public Health Solutions serves as a resource for SNAP and health insurance enrollment.
  • Family Wellness Suites: The Family Wellness Suites will be dedicated spaces to promote maternal and infant wellbeing and family health. Programs offered at the suites will include activities to support breastfeeding, risk-reducing behaviors during and after pregnancy, healthier eating, resources for referral to medical and social service providers, lactation support, newborn visiting programming, referrals to doula support services and birthing centers.
  • Referrals to wellness programs and neighborhood resources: Dedicated Action Center referral specialists will provide information and direct referrals for a wide range of community services. In addition, Health Department initiatives like the Harlem Health Advocacy Partners will provide health coaching through community health workers and support to residents managing chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Referrals to asthma counseling will also be available through the Health Department’s East Harlem Asthma Center for Excellence.
  • Space to work with local stakeholders: The Action Centers are partnering with community-based organizations by offering space for these organizations to operate programs and expand their services for a low monthly maintenance fee. In addition to the Health Department’s initiatives and programs, the East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center is currently providing space to the following organizations: Concrete Safaris, SMART University, Association to Benefit Children (ABC) and Public Health Solutions.

The Tremont Action Center has initiatives on teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent sexual health, as well as partnerships with local schools to promote healthy eating and active living. Tremont also has a clinic for primary care and mental health services operated by NYC Health + Hospitals. In Brownsville, the Action Center focuses on providing support for healthy pregnancies, parenting, breastfeeding and healthy living. The Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center and NYC Health + Hospitals offer primary care and mental health services.

A Place to "Be" — New Media Campaign
To increase awareness about the services available at the Action Centers, the Health Department launched its “Be” media campaign, which features people participating in healthy activities related to programs offered by the Action Centers. These include walking groups, healthy eating, women’s health promotion and physical activities for children. The campaign includes bus shelter ads in the Action Center neighborhoods of East Harlem (Manhattan), Brownsville (Brooklyn) and Tremont (Bronx) as well as online ads and social media. More information about Action Center services and locations can be found at

About the Neighborhood Health Action Center Movement
The Neighborhood Health Action Centers are rooted in a movement that started almost 100 years ago. The Health Department, in partnership with the American Red Cross, established a pilot program in East Harlem in 1921 which co-located health, welfare agencies and community-based organizations to improve the health of the community. Over a 10 year period, East Harlem saw a decrease in infant deaths and an increase in life expectancy. Because of these outcomes, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s administration expanded the East Harlem model and created 30 District Health Buildings in high-need neighborhoods across the city. Unfortunately, due to changes in public and health care systems delivery and political leadership, the true intention of the District Health Centers was lost over time. With the launch of the Action Centers, the City is taking a 21st-century approach to the district health center movement by integrating primary care with connections to local services, community action and neighborhood planning.

About the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity
Founded in 2014, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity amplifies the agency’s work to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of chronic disease and premature death. The division takes a number of approaches to invest in key neighborhoods, eliminate the social barriers to good health and advance health equity throughout New York City. For more information on the Center for Health Equity, visit

Follow the Center for Health Equity on social media using #NYCHealthEquity.



MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodríguez, (347) 396-4177