Manny Quezada, vice president for Community Relations, Medly Pharmacy; Karen Ignagni, president and CEO, EmblemHealth; Al Taylor, New York State Assembly member; and George Hulse, vice president and special advisor, EmblemHealth

EmblemHealth, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurers, working alongside local elected officials and community organizations, recently held its Healthier Futures Wellness Expo in Harlem, New York. Thousands of Harlem residents and families attended the event where COVID-19 and flu vaccinations were provided in addition to dozens of other medical screenings, including breast cancer, diabetes, and HIV screenings, as well as a job fair, live entertainment, food, and other activities.

Community member receives a haircut

“At EmblemHealth, we believe in communities and in the people, who make them vibrant places to live. Our Healthier Futures Wellness Expo allows us to partner with them to help keep our communities healthy, safe, and flourishing,” said Beth Leonard, chief corporate affairs officer at EmblemHealth. “After more than a year, where many people in Harlem put their health concerns on the backburner, this expo provided support for our communities on a face-to-face level. We are here to remind everyone in Harlem that their health is important because they are important.”

CDC studies show that COVID-19 had a heavy impact on Black and Latino/Hispanic communities.  CDC research has also shown that Black and Latino/Hispanics have the highest and third highest flu and flu-related ICU admission rates in the nation.

“EmblemHealth provides cutting-edge community health strategies to expand medical care access in underserved neighborhoods,” said Manny Quezada, vice president for Community Relations at Medly. “With nearly a third of urban residents living in pharmacy deserts, getting basic medical care is often a burden, but the Healthier Futures Wellness Exposition will offer a fun, family-friendly opportunity to get flu and COVID vaccinations, medical screenings, and health education in these underserved neighborhoods. We’re excited to partner with EmblemHealth to bring an innovative, community-based approach to expanding healthcare access and eliminating the disparities of pharmacy deserts.”

Community member receives an insulin test

“Families across our city faced unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and as our communities continue to endure the ongoing public health emergency, we cannot afford to fall victim to the ‘Twindemic’ of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “If we are truly to overcome the pandemic and get our community and region back on track, it is critically important that all eligible residents do their part and get vaccinated—to protect themselves, their families, our communities, and fellow New Yorkers.”

Experts also warn that this flu season will be worse than last year due to increased travel and continued COVID vaccination reluctance, among other factors. To help prevent flu and COVID surges, the Healthier Futures expos allowed people to get checked and vaccinated on site.

Distributing fresh vegetables to the community

“Vaccination hesitancy is not the only contributing factor for the low vaccination rates in underserved communities, which often consist of people of color. Lack of access to vaccines and structural barriers are also impacting the rates of vaccination within these communities,” said Charlene Gayle, executive director of the New York State Association of Black Puerto Rican Hispanic and Asian Legislators Inc. “Residents within these communities also suspended regular doctor visits and healthcare treatment they need. The Association is happy to once again work with EmblemHealth to reach individuals who work on the frontlines and or live-in underserved communities in New York City who need access to vaccinations, dietary information, healthy foods, and medical treatment so that they can manage their health more effectively while we are still in the throes of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

EmblemHealth’s Neighborhood Care centers in Harlem, New York is also a free healthcare resource hub where members of the community can easily walk in and/or contact these offices to get help and information with many assistance programs, including help with food, physical fitness classes, community programs, and a host of other resources.

As the pandemic severely impacted people’s accessibility to routine and essential healthcare resources in the community, EmblemHealth created a series of expos that will help eliminate barriers to care by bringing healthcare access deeper into New York City neighborhoods. Throughout October, EmblemHealth and its community partners held Healthier Futures Wellness Expos in Brownsville, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens prior to Harlem.

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