One nonprofit is looking to be the helping hand for women in Queens to lead healthier lives, no matter their immigration status.
Grameen PrimaCare, a New York City-based organization looking to provide high-quality, affordable and comprehensive access to healthcare, has opened its first primary care and health promotion program in Jackson Heights.
The program, called Grameen VidaSana, is open to women 18 years and older living in low-income, immigrant communities in Queens and who have no health insurance. The service at 82-11 37 Ave. opened in September.
“Our vision, our belief is that it’s unjust if all people don’t have equal access to affordable, quality healthcare, so that’s why we were born,” said Brooke Beardslee, executive director at Grameen PrimaCare. “We were born because it’s just clear that there are so many people in this country who, because of their documentation status, don’t have access to the affordable health care and we find that unacceptable.”
Grameen PrimaCare, is a sister organization of Grameen America, which was started in 2008 and is based on the structure of Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. Yunus offers microloans, training and support for women who do not otherwise have access to traditional banking structures. Grameen America opened its first branch in Jackson Heights.
For a monthly fee of $49, women using Grameen VidaSana receive unlimited access to a bilingual staff at the site that includes a doctor and four health coaches, also known as “compañeras de salud” in Spanish, who meet members first and then continue to work with them through their full membership.
Members also have access to group-based health workshops with a curriculum of many topics that the women themselves identified as concerns they need more information about. Some of these topics include diabetes management, hypertension management, obesity, stress, domestic violence, parenting and nutrition.
Program organizers have also been working with health care providers to find discounted and affordable referrals for members.
“Our practice is unique for many reasons: we are truly community based, we’re located in ground zero of the immigrant community,” Beardslee said. “[Jackson Heights] is ground zero for immigrant life and most likely [a large proportion of them are lacking documentation] and that’s who we are here for.”
According to Beardslee, the curriculum and overall program was designed after more than a year of working together with local community groups, such as Make the Road NY, and holding two health care fairs. During the fairs, they handed out 120-question questionnaires to all attendees.
With their membership, women will also have access to classes such as Zumba, yoga, healthy cooking and ESL courses. For now these classes are free and open to the community as well.
“We know that there has been such bad experience and mistrust, we know that the community is suspicious,” Beardslee said. “We want you to cross the threshold here and come meet us and then decide.”
Grameen VidaSana will be holding Giving Tuesday on Dec. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. featuring free flu shot vouchers, blood pressure checks, healthy cooking demonstrations, an opportunity to meet the doctor and health team at the site, and many giveaways.
“We’re anticipating health literacy rising with the women who become members of Grameen VidaSana,” Beardslee said. “That through all this talking they’re just going to become so much more informed and feel in control with their health.”
Grameen VidaSana is currently open Monday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday 1 to 5 p.m., Wednesday 3 to 7 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.