Leader: Dr. Cappy Collins
Project: Cada Paso
Neighborhood: East Harlem, NY
Raised on ioby: $10,690 for fresh fruit, community garden membership fees, Greenmarket Produce "bucks," and other things to host a season of walks.

Public Health is about more than doctors and medicine. It's also about access to healthy foods, places to play and exercise, looking out for one another, and so much more. Whatever the culture of health looks like in your community, we want to help you strengthen it!

Cada Paso is a guided family walking program in East Harlem, NY, but that's just the beginning. Their walks help people get familiar with the neighborhood resources they need to actively care for their families’ health, and build ‘social capital.’ Hear from project leader Cappy Collins in this video about the impact the program has, and how they did it.

What is Cada Paso?

Cada Paso is a walking program that arose from asking the people who live in East Harlem what they need to help them succeed on their own terms. We partner with an organization here called Little Sisters of the Assumption, and through Little Sisters we're able to reach a lot of families who are looking for extra help to accomplish their needs. Whether it's the health of their children, finding a dentist, or finding clothing or classes to learn English. Whatever it is, we work with Little Sisters and use Cada Paso as a walking program to literally bring them in touch with the resources that East Harlem has to offer.

What does a typical Cada Paso walk look like?

We always meet in the playground on 3rd Avenue 109th, because that's a common space where we can gather in a very casual way, informally, and families have an opportunity to socialize. And socialize is not a touchy-feely term. We're really talking about building social capital. Having the opportunity for kids to play together, for parents to talk, and everyone just to relax in a common space in the neighborhood, gives us a nice foundation for whatever walk we're doing that day.

And then we talk about the topic of the day. So it might be dental health, it might be about play and how important that is for parents and families to play together, and for the kids to play together. It sounds like an obvious idea, but there's so much benefit to that from a social point of view.

And then we move on to the walking program and actually doing the thing we talked about. So we might go visit Randall's Island and help them with an ecological project counting fish. Or we might go to a community garden where we're helping them plant new crops for the season. Whatever it is, we go do the thing we talked about so that our families know that they actually can take action. It's not a passive experience, it's really an active participation. And eventually, we hope that our families can become agents of change for making the neighborhood better for everyone.

How did you get started in this work?

I’m a pediatrician, and I’m really thankful that I can serve children, because I think serving children really helps serve families and communities as populations. The logical extension of treating children in the clinic for diseases is to find out how you can actually prevent those diseases from happening. Whether it's things like obesity or asthma, or even poverty. Cada Paso tries to work outside the medical space, in the neighborhood space where health really happens.

As a walking program, the connection between Cada Paso and community health might not be clear at first glance. How are they related?

On the face of it, Cada Paso is a walking program, and we certainly do walk. We explore all areas of East Harlem. At the same time, what we're really doing is putting people in touch with the resources that meet the needs they've identified for themselves. All the families we serve are part of the program as stakeholders, it's our families running the program for each other. That builds social equity, and helps folks take control of their own health.

East Harlem has a lot of needs that are not being met currently. Fortunately, we also have so many resources here that can really help us meet those needs, and the walks help connect people to the resources that can help them do that.

On your ioby project page you say, “Self-determined action, at a community scale, eradicates injustice.” How is injustice bad for public health? How does self-determined action at a community scale improve public health?

It's really important to have a baseline of needs being met. And when I talk about that, what we really mean is, do people have enough wealth to take care of their housing? To take care of their food, to take care of their family, their educational needs?

We can actually predict which neighborhoods are not going to do as well as other neighborhoods, and what it really comes down to is wealth. No surprise, but there are very particular ways in which we can help to alleviate the injustice that arises from wealth disparities. So if it's a matter of not having food security, or not having appropriate housing, or not having educational access, we can provide families with the services they're looking for that meet those needs and help level the playing field so that their children can actually thrive to the same degree as any other family.

What has surprised you along the way?

There are so many individuals and organizations who are doing everything they can to make sure they're serving the people in the best way they can. Whenever we as Cada Paso are organizing a walk, it really depends on there being a resource out there that meets the needs our families have identified. When we make contact with one of our partners, I'm always so grateful that they are able to do everything they can to make sure we can take advantage of the service they're providing. Whether it's having the right space, having translation, having enough food, they go out of their way to accommodate us so that all together, we can do the best job possible serving our families.


More about Cappy Collins

Cappy Collins, MD, MPH is a pediatrician and digital media designer. His professional interest in the root causes of community health disparities led to the development of the non-profit Nullary Care, Inc. Core programming comprises Cyclopedia, a bicycle program that combines physical activity with collaborative online documentation to empower urban adolescents and reduce chronic stress; and Cada Paso, a family-based walking program to promote physical activity, social networking and health resource utilization. He is co-founder of the New York State Pediatric Advocacy Coalition (NYSPAC.net) dedicated to promoting child health advocacy training, supporting successful child advocacy programs, and providing a statewide legislative voice. He teaches graduate courses in public health and is Director of the Long Island Centers of Excellence in Children's Environmental Health, part of the statewide NYSCHECK.org network.

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