Health Department’s Center for Health Equity Kicks Off Walking Groups for 17 Faith-Based Organizations in the Bronx

Walking in a group reduces social isolation, lowers blood pressure and improves mental health

July 25, 2017 –The Health Department’s Center for Health Equity, through its Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, kicked off walking groups today for 17 faith-based organizations in the Bronx. The program was launched at the Bronx’s Tremont Neighborhood Health Action Center to increase fitness activities for local congregants. At the event, 23 residents walked through Tremont Park and stopped at the local farmers’ market. T-shirts and pedometers were also distributed to participants so they can track their own progress. The Health Department recommends that walking groups meet at least once a week year round and take brisk walks for 30 minutes to one hour. Forming walking groups was a commitment faith leaders citywide made during last year’s Food, Fitness and Faith Summit held in October.

“Joining a walking group can help keep you motivated to exercise, and is a great way to connect with neighbors and explore your neighborhood,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Regular physical activity also lowers the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and hypertension. We’re proud to partner with faith-based organizations to create a stronger and healthier community.”

“Our faith-based organizations are champions of implementing wellness programs like walking groups at the neighborhood level,” said Dr. Aletha Maybank, Deputy Commissioner and Director of the Center for Health Equity. “There are safety and community benefits to joining a walking group. People feel safer walking together than walking alone, while getting the chance to meet and connect with fellow neighbors.”

"Collaborative fitness programs bring neighbors together for a good cause while addressing community health" said Jonathan Soto, Executive Director at the Center for Faith and Community Partnerships. "It is encouraging to witness the faith community's commitment to wellness."

“We applaud the efforts of the Health Department to promote fitness and wellness among our Houses of Worship, through their Office of Faith Based Initiatives.  Many studies have concluded that 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, like walking, helps with weight loss thus improving our ability to combat chronic illnesses. The formulation of walking groups by Faith-Based institutions advanced by the Health Department, serves as a great impetus to help address key barriers to good health and healthy lifestyles," said Reverend Dr. Bruce Rivera, Chair of the Bronx Interfaith Advisory Group.

In New York City, there are stark differences in health outcomes between certain neighborhoods. Poverty is concentrated geographically, and some of the poorest neighborhoods are in the South Bronx. The residents of these neighborhoods are also disproportionately people of color. By actively partnering with faith-based organizations to create walking groups, the Health Department is creating sustainable wellness programs that promote more opportunities for Bronx residents to get physically active in a safe and social way. Walking helps control blood pressure, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and prevent obesity.

About the Interfaith Advisory Groups
Convened by the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, the Interfaith Advisory Groups bring together faith leaders to collaborate with the Health Department in the planning and development of public health programs and policies. Interfaith Advisory Groups are based in each borough and work to reduce health disparities by advocating for improved health care access and promoting wellness through health education and outreach.

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 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. For more information on the Center for Health Equity, visit The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives in the Center for Health Equity leads the Health Department’s effort to create sustainable partnerships with the faith community and address health inequities. The initiative builds partnerships through the Interfaith Advisory Groups.

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


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