BY Eileen Z. Fuentes
I am happy to introduce the Uptown Collective audience to some of the ambassadors in our Washington Heights/Inwood community who actively work to promote health. The first profile in this series is Stephanie Nina Pitsirilos. Stephanie was introduced to healthcare early on by her mother who is a Nurse at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She grew up in the Upper West Side, lived in Greece for 2 years as a student of ethnography where she also worked with political and economic refugees and other urban populations in need of medical attention. After attending Columbia University’s Masters in Public Health Program, she fell in love with the neighborhood and has remained here for the last 9 years. With her Puerto-Rican and Greek background she embodies everything that makes up this very diverse neighborhood.
Stephanie now manages the social marketing campaign, “Vive tu Vida. Energia.Balancia. Acción/Live your Life. Energy. Balance. Action.” to help educate, motivate and mobilize community members in Northern Manhattan towards living healthier lives, and to identify resources supportive of healthy living. What appealed the most to me about this program is that they recognized the fact that the target population was mostly Spanish-speaking and so they made it their mission to market themselves so that everyone could benefit from the message they were trying to convey. In addition, she oversees CHALK (Choosing Healthy & Active Lifestyles for Kids) a collaboration between Community Pediatrics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and our community to promote healthy habits for children and to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. As an incentive, events are organized that are subtle enough to get the public involved while engaging the children as well as their parents to learn more about health-promoting food and physical activity. The website offers many tools, announcements and even includes information about grants being offered for local programs. Both “Vive to Vida/Live your Life and CHALK” provide a fun and engaging way to embrace health, while allowing Stephanie to the serve the neighborhood where she lives.
The future looks bright for this innovative and passionate woman. She will to continue to steer the Vive tu Vida/Live your Life campaign towards it goals, which is ultimately, to help people live a healthy, happy life. In August they joined Bravo supermarkets in the area to include health improvement tips right on the circular and flyers. In September they will align themselves with local businesses to spread the message about adding greens to “la bandera” or “the flag”, a traditional Dominican meal consisting of rice, beans and meat.
On a more personal note, she completed a novel based on women’s historical fiction, which has gotten positive feedback from her mentors, authors and literary agents alike and has already started working on her second project. She is also a salsa dancer and taught belly-dancing for a number of years, a fun activity she’s introduced to the parents who take part in her programs. In the short time we spent together, her animated, engaging and creative disposition was obvious and I am sure it will continue to be reflected in her work. Stephanie’s aim, to “treat” populations, not patients, is an admirable sentiment indeed. She is a gift to our community and her accomplishments can be measured by our own success who benefit directly from her programs.