Bronx demands a face on Council’s Health Committee

Bronx demands a face on Council’s Health Committee
Photo courtesy of Health People

Bronxites are nauseated over the lack of representation on one of the City Council’s most critical committees and it seems the new City Council speaker is fine with that.

On Friday, February 9, several community groups attending the inaugural ‘Putting Community at the Center of Our Bronx Health’ Conference at Hostos Community College demanded that Council Speaker Corey Johnson appoint Bronx members to the NYC Council Health Committee.

However in a statement he released to the Bronx Times he doesn’t plan to change the committee’s present lopsided borough makeup anytime soon.

Council Speaker Johnson, a former chair of the Health Committee, said “I trust the leadership of my Health Committee members in their commitment to New Yorkers’ health and engaging with residents with their most pressing health concerns.”

The Council’s Health Committee has jurisdiction over NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Emergency Medical Services for health-related issues and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

According to Chris Norwood, Health People executive director and founder, it’s imperative that the Bronx have one of its own on the committee.

Council members Mark Levine, chairman; Keith Powers; Mathieu Eugene; Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Inez Barron currently preside over the committee.

Levine and Powers are from Manhattan while Ampry-Samuel, Barron and Eugene represent Brooklyn.

Former Bronx council members who served on the committee were James Vacca from 2015 to 2017; Maria Del Carmen Arroyo from 2006 to 2015 and Joel Rivera and Helen Foster from 2006 to 2013.

For the eighth year in a row, the Bronx was ranked last out of 62 NYS counties in 2017 for overall health in the annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Study.

The borough ranked last in health outcomes, quality of life, health factors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

“All of the boroughs should be represented on this committee, but as the borough with the worst health this is totally unacceptable,” stated Norwood. “By working with communities on a local level, we can move the Bronx up from 62.”

She added that the borough has developed outstanding community-based strategies to improve health which she hopes will be brought to NYC.

Last summer, Health People achieved full recognition from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deliver the National Diabetes Prevention Program, making it the first Bronx agency or health organization to receive this highest level of approval from the CDC for successfully implementing the DPP.

Since 2015, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition in collaboration with Montefiore Medical Center, NYC DOHMH, BlocPower, Emerald Cities Collaborative, NY Lawyers for Public Interest and Councilman Ritchie Torres, have implemented the Bronx Healthy Buildings Program.

The initiative targets the northwest and central Bronx’s deteriorating housing conditions, seeks to reduce asthma hospitalizations, lowers energy consumption, establishes green jobs and ensures housing affordability.

Despite Johnson’s reluctance to add Bronx representation to the committee, the Health People have established a ‘Make Equitable the Representation on the NYC Council Health Committee’ online petition urging Johnson to make the changes.

If interested in signing the petition, visit