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NYC Health + Hospitals Leads Holistic Health Dialogue With Lifestyle Medicine Roundtable

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: October 2, 2023
A healthy diet, including a variety of foods with plenty of vegetables and fruit, goes far to reduce chronic inflammation and may even reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease by promoting healthier metabolism and cardiovascular function. (Image: Ella Olsson via Pexels)

On Sept. 29, NYC Health + Hospitals hosted a roundtable dedicated to ensuring that every resident in New York City — regardless of immigration or financial status — has access to high quality health services and holistic lifestyle programs.

The event, which was held via Zoom in conjunction with the hospital’s Office of Ethnic and Community Media, featured two speakers: Dr. Michelle McMacken, Executive Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals, and Dr. Itha Harewood, Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. The event delved into the heart of its mission, values, and steps aimed at providing a healthier space for all New Yorkers. 

NYC Health + Hospitals’ lifestyle medicine also includes asthma care, depression, smoking cessation, diabetes care, and high blood pressure treatment. Other available programs include diet plans tailored by dietitians, health coaches, and each individuals’ primary care doctor. (Image: Alina Wang/Vision Times)

Mission pillars

As the largest municipal health care system in the U.S., NYC Health + Hospitals aims to provide “essential inpatient, outpatient, and home-based services” to more than one million New York residents in more than 70 locations across the city’s five boroughs each year. 

The lifestyle medicine program which includes asthma care, depression, smoking cessation, diabetes care, and high blood pressure treatment also include: 

  • Equal Access for All: The organization’s main focus is to offer comprehensive health services, complimentary lifestyle programs, and dietary coaching sessions to all residents of the city, regardless of insurance or financial status.
  • Innovator and Advocate: As a health champion, NYC Health +Hospitals is committed to promoting and safeguarding the health, welfare, and safety of New Yorkers.
  • Community Partnership: NYC Health +Hospitals believes in collaborating with other health workers and the community. Such partnerships amplify their potential to promote and protect the well-being — physical, mental, and social — of its residents.
  • Vision for a Healthier New York: The institution envisions itself as a fully integrated health system that empowers every New Yorker to live their healthiest possible life via programs that encourage a healthier plant-based diet, prioritizing sleep, routine exercise, coping with stress, etc. 

Core values and ICARE standards

Built on a foundation of social and racial equity, NYC Health + Hospitals has introduced the CARE values of: Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence to ensure that every New Yorker receives the healthcare they need, while fostering strong community ties that aim to transcend social and cultural barriers. 

RELATED: NYC Health Commissioner Holds Roundtable Event to Discuss ‘Quitting Smoking for Good’ Campaign

These standards are meant to enhance patient experience and ensure that staff are fully aligned with the organization’s mission and vision. It also ensures that translation and interpreter services are available for residents who do not speak English but still wish to participate in the lifestyle program. 

“Leading the expansion of this program to help residents — especially minority residents — make healthy lifestyle choices is essential,” said McMacken as she highlighted the importance of prioritizing a plant-based diet. “When combined, lifestyle changes — exercise, sleep, stress management, and healthy plant-based eating — prove to be incredibly powerful.”

“As a doctor, I’ve seen lifestyle changes work wonders,” added McMacken, who has worked as primary care physician for over 20 years. “Patients with Type 2 diabetes have reversed their condition by embracing these changes.”

Offering expert care and assistance to more than 60,000 New Yorkers affected by diabetes, the program aims to support adults and children who might be susceptible to developing pre-diabetes due to lifestyle or dietary choices.

Expanding accessibility

While addressing challenges faced by some residents such as financial barriers, transportation, and immigration status, McMacken mentioned that the program offers free monthly produce delivery and coupons that residents can redeem at farmers markets.

Dr. Itha Harewood, who was born and raised in the Bronx, chimed in to share the mental health impacts of social isolation — especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. While emphasizing the importance of harnessing lifestyle medicine as a remedy, she said, “Loneliness is linked with early mortality; it’s therefore essential to create spaces where people can bond — and our group sessions are aimed at fostering these connections.”

Aiming for broader accessibility, the program will establish:

  • 2 sites in Brooklyn
  • 2 sites in the Bronx
  • 1 site in Queens
  • 1 site in Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital 

McMacken reminded attendees of simpler times when older generations across cultures consumed healthier, less processed foods. “Looking back, our ancestors were eating less processed foods cooked in simpler ways. We aim to bring back that simplicity to better the health of our residents.”

By exemplifying a commitment to holistic health, NYC Health + Hospitals aims to address not only physical ailments, but also the mental and social challenges faced by today’s generation of New Yorkers. Despite facing language barriers and other challenges, its mission is clear: a healthier New York for all starts by helping residents embark on a journey to improved health today. 

With an enrollment capacity of about 4,000 patients per site, those interested in the program can call:(347) 507-3695 for inquiries, or visit the official NYC Health + Hospitals website for more information.