Maria Ramos Receives AwardBy Jose B. Rivera
East Harlem - October 29, 2008 - Maria Ramos an East Harlem activist and health literacy professional received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release (below) says it all.
PRINCETON, NJ (October 27, 2008) - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today announced Maria Ramos, a longtime health literacy activist in impoverished New York City communities, as one of ten exemplary Americans who will receive the Community Health Leaders Award for 2008. The distinguished annual award honors extraordinary men and women from all over the country who conquer huge obstacles and take commanding action in local communities to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing the nation. Awardees are celebrated with national recognition and $125,000.
This year, more than 800 nominations were submitted from across the United States. Through a rigorous process, the Foundation selected ten outstanding individuals, all of whom have worked to improve health conditions in their communities through exceptional creativity, courage and commitment. The Foundation chose Ramos this year for her leadership in developing an initiative to provide free health screenings for hundreds of disadvantaged taxi and limousine drivers in the South Bronx and East Harlem communities. Ramos will accept her award on October 29 at a special ceremony honoring each of the 2008 recipients during the Community Health Leaders Annual Meeting in San Diego.
“Maria Ramos’ commitment to her community drives her out-of-the-box thinking that all communities need to adapt to meet constantly evolving challenges,” said Janice Ford Griffin, national program director for the award. “Maria is tenacious in her efforts to figure out what will work and how to make it happen.”
Through the Taxi/Limousine Drivers Health Initiative, Ramos deploys staff members to 70 taxi bases daily to deliver crucial health services to hundreds of drivers. Using dispatch radios, staff members announce services that are available on-location for that day. The individuals conduct health screenings, including glucose, blood pressure and prostate, breast and colon cancer; administer flu shots; schedule medical appointments and assist drivers with enrolling in health insurance plans. They also educate drivers about chronic illnesses such as asthma, cancer and heart disease. In an effort to limit drivers’ time off the road, Ramos’ “express care” system delivers all services within an hour.
Ramos’ work addresses the health care needs and improves health outcomes for many taxi drivers who suffer from poor circulation and other medical conditions as a result of the sedentary nature of their work. Some fear pursuing health services that they are unfamiliar with and, therefore, have not sought needed treatment. Others have refrained from seeking medical help because of frustrations with language and communication barriers in medical offices. Ramos encourages drivers to take control of their health and manage their medical conditions regardless of such fear or aggravation. In many cases, she also works to alter drivers’ “on-the-go” eating habits to reduce their risks for obesity and diabetes. More than 3,000 drivers comprise the service area of Ramos’ program. Drivers served are predominantly Dominican, West African, Columbian and Venezuelan male immigrants between the ages of 21 and 60. Most are uninsured. In a letter of recommendation supporting Ramos’ nomination for the award, Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo, who represents New York’s 84th district, wrote that Ramos’ program is among her “greatest accomplishments” as a “pioneer for public health” in New York City.
Ramos and each of the 2008 awardees will join the ranks of 153 Community Health Leaders in 45 states and Puerto Rico honored since 1993. The $125,000 award consists of a $20,000 personal gift and $105,000 to support their work. In addition to Ramos in New York, this year, Community Health Leaders hail from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Massachusetts, California, Utah, New York, North Dakota and Hawaii. Nominations for the 2009 Community Health Leaders Award can be submitted through November 7, 2008. For details on how to submit a nomination, including eligibility requirements and selection criteria, visit http://www.communityhealthleaders.org.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit http://www.rwjf.org.
Community Health Leaders 2008
Area(s) of Expertise: Access to Care
Leader’s Biography 2008:
MARIA RAMOS, Network Associate Director, Generations +/Northwestern Manhattan Health Network, New York, New York
In 2003 Maria Ramos saw a need for health services among New York City’s taxi and limousine drivers who frequently suffer from medical conditions as a result of their sedentary work and “on-the-go” eating habits. What began as an opportunity to bring healthcare to those living and working in Harlem and the South Bronx communities, has developed into a mechanism to deliver healthcare services to drivers at 70 taxi bases across New York, where over 3,000 drivers and their families can have access to care. Ramos and her outreach staff travel to area taxi bases daily, utilizing dispatch radios to announce the availability of services for that day. Most services are provided within an hour, which appeals to drivers, who average three customers within that time frame. Ramos’ success has led to other projects, including a collaboration with the taxi bases and the Department of Aging to increase awareness of available healthcare services programs to seniors as she continues to find innovative efforts to meet the healthcare needs of New Yorkers.
Where this Leader can be reached today:
Network Associate Director Community Health Education Program
Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center
234 E 149th St
Bronx, NY 10451-5504