Ped­al­ing to­ward suc­cess

Stu­dents learn health through cy­cling at Wood­hull

Modern Healthcare - - Special Section -

Ed­ward Fishkin and his col­leagues at Wood­hull Med­i­cal and Mental Health Cen­ter in New York City have won a medal with their ped­als.

They have helped hun­dreds of mostly lower-in­come, mi­nor­ity stu­dents in Brook­lyn School District 14 learn to ride bi­cy­cles and gain self-con­fi­dence, dis­ci­pline and health ben­e­fits. They also have widened the stu­dents’ worlds through the Kids Ride Club, run partly by 371-bed Wood­hull and cham­pi­oned by Fishkin, a physi­cian who serves as med­i­cal di­rec­tor when he’s not di­rect­ing traf­fic.

He leads vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing doc­tors and staff, along with oth­ers from the com­mu­nity, who guide 18 week­end rides from April through Oc­to­ber. Each has be­tween 15 and 100 par­tic­i­pants who are 10 to 18 years old from a com­mu­nity where one-third of the chil­dren are over­weight or obese.

Wood­hull’s role in­cludes do­nat­ing two vans, driven by staff vol­un­teers, that serve as “sag wag­ons,” pick­ing up par­tic­i­pants who tire out dur­ing their rides. Wood­hull also pur­chased 20 bikes (out of a fleet of 40) for about $3,000. For these ef­forts, Wood­hull has re­ceived the Spirit of Ex­cel­lence Award for Com­mu­nity.

The 15-year-old pro­gram is run in part­ner­ship with Re­cy­cle-A-Bi­cy­cle, which of­fers bike re­pair and rid­ing-safety train­ing, and the New York Cy­cle Club, which pro­vides many of the adult vol­un­teers. Health­first and MetroPlus Health Plan con­trib­ute jer­seys and shorts.

“Asthma is epi­demic in the neigh­bor­hood,” Fishkin says. “We want to get the kids to rec­og­nize the healthy life­styles com­po­nent—we give them nutrition ed­u­ca­tion. The kids know they have to ride safely.”

The youths cy­cle to lo­ca­tions such as Coney Is­land and Lin­coln Cen­ter in Man­hat­tan with adults from all walks of life. “They get ex­posed to peo­ple they wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily see and places they wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily go,” Fishkin says. “Doc­tors come, res­i­dent physi­cians, psy­chol­o­gists, cre­ative art ther­a­pists, ad­min­is­tra­tors. They en­joy it as much as the kids.”

In April, most of the new chil­dren can ride about eight miles; by Oc­to­ber, it’s closer to 50. On the last ride of the year, the group cy­cles across the bridge to New Jersey.

“It can be pretty daunt­ing for a young­ster who has never been en­gaged in com­pet­i­tive sports to get in­volved, es­pe­cially if they’re over­weight,” Fishkin says. “They im­prove their self-im­age. ”

The pro­gram reaches chil­dren and youths who are of­ten starved for at­ten­tion, says Calvin Thomas, a physi­cian who is vice chair­man of OB/GYN and pres­i­dent of the med­i­cal and den­tal staff.

“We’ve seen turn­around in kids who were trou­bled, ne­glected, who did bet­ter in school be­cause some­one gave them at­ten­tion,” he says. “We’ve con­tin­ued to sup­port (Fishkin) be­cause of the tremen­dous re­turn on this ef­fort. It’s good­will to­ward the com­mu­nity. It’s a great idea for ev­ery­body to ex­er­cise, and to show some car­ing for oth­ers.”

When they start, the chil­dren can ride about eight miles—by the end, it’s closer to 50.

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