Promoting Health and Well-Being in Our Northern Manhattan Neighborhood and Beyond

Columbia Pediatrics researchers conduct community outreach as part of the Futures Ignite initiaitve.

Community Pediatrics

Banner graphic for the Department of Pediatrics Annual Report for 2023

Our Community Pediatrics Program focuses on the health and well-being of children and adolescents in Northern Manhattan. Through collaborative community-academic partnerships, population health initiatives, and innovative pediatric training experiences, the program aims to address root causes of illness an achieve equity for all.

 Our programs are in the following domains: Promoting early childhood health and development, obesity prevention, child and adolescent behavioral health, youth development, sexual and reproductive health, social determinants of health, and community health navigation and peer-based support.

In 2023 department members helped launched new community initiatives and strengthened existing programs. Here are some highlights:

NextGen Chefs Fights Health Disparities Through Nutrition Education

The rising prevalence of obesity, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes (T2D) in children Northern Manhattan communities is driven, in large part, by easily available ultra-processed foods. These ready-to-eat, calorie-dense prepared foods are saturated with addictive sugars and salts. Ileana Vargas, MD, MS, developed a novel culinary medicine program, NextGen Chefs, to help local youth and their families manage their weight, blood sugar, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease, with the goal of decreasing serious complications. “We're teaching kids to make simple recipes that are delicious and healthy for them with the goal to decrease long-term complications,” says Dr. Vargas. “But most importantly, they're really enjoying participating in the kitchen, and some of them now are cooking with their parents.”

NextGen Chefs Fights Health Disparities Through Nutrition Education

Food FARMacia: Reducing Childhood Obesity in Households with Food Insecurity

Food FARMacia, a mobile food market for at-risk members of the Washington Heights community, is a household food insecurity intervention embedded in our pediatric primary care settings. During clinical care encounters, members of our health care team identify families eligible for participation in Food FARMacia (a collaboration between the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and NewYork-Presbyterian’s Choosing Healthy and Active Lifestyles for Kids (CHALK)). A 2023 study by Dr. Jennifer Woo Baidal, Dr. Dodi Meyer, and colleagues, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, showed that children enrolled in the Food FARMacia program had smaller increases in body mass index than peers not enrolled in the program, demonstrating the promise of the Food FARMacia model for reducing the risk of obesity.

Columbia Children’s Research Community Advisory Board           

In 2022 the department established the Columbia Children’s Research Community Advisory Board. The board includes professionals who live and work in the community and who represent a range of domains related to family health: housing and food security, mental health, schools, perinatal health, faith-based organizations, environmental justice, and local businesses. The board’s mission is to improve children's and families' health in our surrounding communities by integrating community voices, facilitating community engagement, and promoting community linkages. research is meaningful to the community to speedily translate promising clinical practices and innovations into community settings need. At the board’s 2023 quarterly meetings, several department researchers presented their work for board input. These included five research presentations that resulted in five letters of support from the board for faculty in the pediatrics divisions Child and Adolescent Health, Genetics, Cardiology, Emergency Medicine, Hospital Medicine, and Neonatology, as well as at the Mailman School of Public Health. Reflecting on the input provided by the board, one department researcher noted, “We took all of the great feedback and integrated into development of our interview guide data collection instrument and now are reflecting on the input with regards to data analysis and coding phase. I have also applied the insights gained from this meeting to other projects and development of grants that are relevant.”

Columbia Children's community advisory board

The Columbia Children’s Research Community Advisory Board includes professionals who live and work in the community and who represent a range of domains related to family health

Other Comunity Pediatrics Highlights

  • Dr. Evelyn Berger-Jenkins oversaw the planned expansion of the NYP Ambulatory Care Network program Turn 2 Us, a school-based mental health promotion and prevention program, to several public elementary schools in Brooklyn
  • Dr. Berger-Jenkins received a mental health resident training grant (HRSA 2023-2027), to train primary care residents in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, treatment, and referral of services for mental and behavioral health conditions for pediatric, adolescent, young adult, and other populations who are at-risk or have experienced abuse, trauma, or mental health and/or substance use disorders
  • Dr. Dodi Meyer is co-leading, together with NYP and Literacy INC, the Northern Manhattan cross sector Early Childhood Collaborative, which provides services that improve caregivers’ and young children’s health, growth, and well-being.
  • Dr. Adriana Matiz co-leads the Center for Community Health Navigation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. In 2023 she helped develop and implement the community health worker (CHW) role in early initiatives for pregnant women and young children. In addition pediatric residents were provided opportunities to participate in CHW home visits.
  • Dr. Dina Romo joined the department to lead the NYP School-Based Health Center program, which provides primary medical, preventive, dental, and mental health care, and a diverse array of health education and health promotion services through seven school-based health centers serving more than 20 public schools in Harlem, Washington Heights/Inwood, and the Bronx (SBHCs).
  • Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir partnered with the northern-Manhattan community organization Futures Ignite Study to engage students in a study measuring air quality in their community, giving them tools to advocate for more green space in the area near their school. 
Columbia Pediatrics faculty lead schoolchildren through a mindfulness exercise in their classroom.

Community Pediatrics Resident Research

Many trainees in the department’s residency program also chose to focus on community health research through their scholarly projects. In 2023 residents’ research project topics included:

    • Embedding Equity into Quality Metrics
    • REaL Data Validation in Peds ED
    • Description of ED Catchment Area
    • Disparities in ED LOS by Interpreter Type
    • Disparities in Discharge Medication Failure by Preferred Language
    • Implementing SDOH Screenings in Outpatient Oncology Clinic
    • Healthy Food Recipe Videos for Adolescents
    • Pollution and Lung Health in Active Youth
    • Barriers to Enrollment in CHW Program

NewYork-Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Network

Through NewYork-Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Network, our faculty members work together with the hospital to offer many specialty programs for children and adolescents in the surrounding area. These programs include:

Center for Community Health and Education (CCHE)

A community and school-based health center program providing comprehensive medical, mental health, and health education services for medically underserved adolescents and adults.

CHALK (Choosing Healthy and Active Lifestyles for Kids)

CHALK aims to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity; Health for Life is a comprehensive weight management program for overweight preadolescents and adolescents.

The Family PEACE (Promoting Education, Advocacy, Collaboration, and Empowerment) Program

Dedicated to improving the safety and well-being of mothers and children who have been exposed to violence.

Project STAY (Services to Assist Youth)

Provides HIV counseling and testing to adolescents and young adults at risk for, or living with, HIV.

ANCHOR (Addressing the Needs of the Community through Holistic Organizational Relationships)

Provides universal screening for depression, substance use, asthma, housing, food insecurity, transportation, utilities, and domestic violence, followed by referrals to community service providers if indicated. More than 7,000 patients are screened annually, and about a third of them are referred for food insecurity and housing stability and quality.

Center for Community Health Navigation (CCHN)

Provides culturally sensitive peer-based support in the emergency department and inpatient, outpatient, and community settings through the use of community health workers and patient navigators. Pediatric initiatives include support for caregivers of children with poorly controlled asthma, children with special health care needs, and children with hearing loss.