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Health Dept. listens to community concerns

By Jennifer C. Smith

Southeast Queens residents now have the opportunity to voice their health concerns about their communities in a new study organized by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Agenda for Children Tomorrow.

Carol Azar, community planner for the Jamaica team, said “the partnership is an effort to link Health Department resources to the community.”

The initiative’s theme, “community assets and health homes,” focuses on how residents feel about employment, housing, public parks, transportation safety, and access to health care and youth and day-care services in Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, and Springfield Gardens.

There is a special emphasis on health concerns, especially after the events of Sept. 11, said Eric Brettschneider, executive director of ACT.

“We’re excited about not only finding out how 9/11 impacted health care needs and opportunities in Jamaica, but how new needs exacerbated conditions and conditions before 9/11,” he said. “Anyone who saw clouds of dust drifting from the World Trade Center saw it drift over Queens and Brooklyn. We need clarification on how the health of Jamaica residents was affected and their perceptions of how it was affected.”

Yet it is important to remember, Azar said, that the study would have happened regardless of the World Trade Center tragedy and only two questions relate to the disaster. “The survey is intended to just get the basic needs of community members,” she said.

Brettschneider said the study is tied to health research that ACT has undertaken.

“This study fits very well into work we’ve done, such as lifestyle and stress management impact on sick-cell identification, asthma and environmental work, allergies, and household hygiene,” he said.

Twenty-two members of the community were recruited as part-time employees and paid $10 an hour at about 20 hours a week to conduct oral interviews. Brettschneider said youth were sought out for the position, so as to encourage job experience and interest in the community's future.

“It was hoped surveying as a technique and a tool would spark interest in at least some of the students,” he said.

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