A recent article in The Record recounts how community groups led by Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine, Alianza Dominicana, Inc. and Harlem Hospital Center helped 30,000 residents of Washington Heights, Inwood and Harlem get health insurance, immunized 8,000 children, trained 1,500 health workers and raised the area’s vaccination rate from 63 percent to 97 percent.
The story of this collaboration, both its successes and failures, is recounted in Mobilizing the Community for Better Health: What the Rest of America Can Learn from Northern Manhattan, which is edited by Allan Formicola and Lourdes Hernandez-Cordero. The book discusses how the health partnerships grappled with the high rates of asthma, drug use, teen pregnancy, and violence in Washington Heights and Harlem.
Despite some continuing tensions, the program has improved relationships between Columbia and its surrounding neighborhoods. From The Record:
When Formicola began community work as a dean at Columbia, the University’s ties to the surrounding neighborhoods were rocky. Columbia’s relationship with the community “has since come a long, long way,” Formicola said. “I’m a big believer in building solid community relations for universities. That’s what universities should be doing. We should be taking on some of these real and practical problems that people suffer with.”
Formicola’s hope is that more academic medical centers in the United States consider this community-based approach. “We would certainly make a big dent into the health problems we have in the United States,” he said.