10 Nov

Maternal Health Study

Maternal Health Nursing

Mount Sinai Medical Students Study LSA Maternal Health Data

How are we doing? What’s changing? Where are we going? These are the kinds of questions medical students are trying to answer as they examine maternal health data from the Nursing program at LSA Family Health Service.

The agency’s nurses treat prenatal and postpartum mothers and their babies who have been referred by their doctors for ongoing care. Over the last five years, medical students from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been culling data to understand the impact of the program on the health of mothers and babies.

“We can use the data to try to develop more services and interventions for the women.”

The research takes into consideration a range of health and social factors, such as gestational age, birth weight, mental health risk, diabetes and food insecurity. For example, more than a third of mothers reported that they have no one to call in times of crisis. Recognizing the high rate of social isolation can help our nurses better understand how to support the mental health of mothers in the program.

“This is a program evaluation to look at the high risk population served and the importance of the program in impacting the lives of women who have no one to turn to other than LSA,” said Dr. Elizabeth Garland of Mount Sinai. Dr. Garland is the Division Director for Preventive Medicine and Community Health and manages the maternal health research initiative.

Dr. Garland stressed the value of looking at data over a number of years to uncover health trends in the community. For example, our nurses knew that they were seeing more and more complex cases. The data shows that this is quantifiably the case, with increased rates of preeclampsia and cases with multiple diagnoses. “We can use the data to try to develop more services and interventions for the women,” said Dr. Garland.

The rich data has been presented at many national pediatric meetings, most recently at the New York State Pediatric Advocacy Coalition annual conference. Ultimately, the goal is to better serve mothers in our community and share what we’ve learned with others.

Photo by Micah Rubin

17 Oct

Thank you! 2017 Spirit of East Harlem Gala

Our thanks to everyone who participated in the 2017 Spirit of East Harlem gala! The event raised close to $1,000,000 for our health, education and support services for families in crisis. Amazing!
It’s not too late to participate in the gala!

Please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution to keep our health, education and family support programs going in 2018.  CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

Click the left and right arrows to scroll through photos from the evening.

2017 Spirit of East Harlem Gala

Event photos by Metin Oner. Step & repeat photos by Kaddy Tsang.

The Spirit of East Harlem Gala is is an occasion for supporters to celebrate the impact and contribute toward the success of LSA Family Health Service’s programs for children and families.

The event honored: The Deerfield Foundation, Corporate Spirit Award; Chita Rivera, Lifetime Spirit Award; and Ralph A. Siciliano, Esq., Community Spirit Award.

Guests enjoyed a Tribute to Chita Rivera, featuring songs from her ground-breaking career performed by Doreen Montalvo. Doreen Montalvo is a theatre/ television/ film performer and recording artist, currently playing Gloria Estefan’s mother “Gloria Fajardo” in the hit Broadway musical “On Your Feet” at the Marquis Theatre.

Read a press release about the event


We salute the 2017 Spirit of East Harlem Sponsors!

How does LSA make a difference for families? 

In the video below, two mothers share their stories.

17 Oct

Video: Spirit of East Harlem 2017

Each year, LSA provides over 2,000 families with health, education and family support services.  In 1958, our founders began providing nursing care to mothers in East Harlem.  Today, we still offer maternal health nursing, with additional programs that strengthen whole families, including new immigrants to our community.  In this video, two mothers share their LSA story.

06 Oct

Fall at LSA

Fall is a busy time for LSA programs!

Here are some highlights of exciting things happening at each of our programs.

Early childhood and youth programs start for fall!
Early childhood socialization groups started meeting on September 18th. About 80 families will be participating in classes for parents and children 0-3 years old. Our intensive work with families sets the stage for future learning by keeping children on track during this critical period for brain development.

This fall we’re partnering with NYU on a language development intervention for children 12 to 19 months old. The intervention includes home visits and workshops to help families increase language exposure during everyday family routines, like mealtimes. Increased language exposure at this age can help children with brain and language development.

New and veteran volunteer after school tutors gather for fall orientation

After school tutoring and homework help for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade begins on October 11th. Students also participate in socio-emotional groups that use books as a tool to develop self-esteem and emotional wellbeing while building reading skills. We thank the wonderful volunteer tutors who help children improve math and reading skills throughout the year!

Environmental Health: Community Health Worker Report
A new report based on research conducted by our Environmental Health team and the New York Academy of Medicine was recently released. The findings will be presented at the American Health Association Conference on November 8th.  Learn more and read the report here:  Community Health Worker Report.

Nursing: Welcome Jean Sale-Shaw!
We welcomed a new Director of Patient Services and Nursing: Jean Sale-Shaw, MS, MPH, RN, AE-C . For the last 17 years, first in tuberculosis control, and more recently in asthma programming, Jean has worked at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, witnessing the trend that brought chronic disease prevention under the purview of public health. She says: “While I have worked in acute care of adults – general medicine; drug and alcohol detoxification – I found myself early on taking the long view of health and wellness, meaning that in many cases, the solution to the health problem cannot be fit into the hospital or clinic visit alone.”

Advocacy: Know-your-rights workshops and food support
Our Advocacy department continues to help connect families with resources and to provide food assistance. Fresh local organic produce through a collaboration with Local Produce Link (a program of United Way of NYC and Just Food), has been a highlight of the summer and early fall for families visiting our pantry. In addition, our Immigration Outreach Organizer, Melina Gonzalez, has been conducting Know Your Rights workshops in at LSA and at other locations in the community.

Vegetables from the pantry were used to give visitors to LSA a cooking lesson.

Find your Halloween costume at The Sharing Place!
The Sharing Place Thrift Store held a special Designer Sale on Columbus Day Weekend. The store offers special deals every week. Right now the store has fall clothing available and has many Halloween costumes for babies, children and adults.

Halloween costumes and more can be found at our thrift store.


03 Oct

Spirit of East Harlem Gala, October 16, 2017

2017 Spirit of East Harlem Gala

The Spirit of East Harlem Gala is is an occasion for supporters to celebrate the impact and contribute toward the success of LSA Family Health Service’s programs for children and families.  Founded by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, LSA has been an anchor of the East Harlem community since 1958, serving over 2,000 families annually through health, education and family support programs that strengthen families and help children reach their full potential.

Learn more at: spiritofeastharlem.com.

We’re thrilled to announce our 2017 Spirit of East Harlem gala honorees!


Deerfield Foundation

Corporate Spirit Award
The Deerfield Foundation
Supporting healthcare initiatives that benefit children from underserved communities and all people that have disease or need healthcare services

Chita Rivera

Lifetime Spirit Award
Chita Rivera
Actress, Dancer & Singer
Recipient, Presidential Medal of Freedom

Ralph Sicilano, Esq.

Community Spirit Award
Ralph A. Siciliano, Esq.
LSA Board Member & Former Board Chair, 1987 – present
Partner, Tannenbaum, Helpern, Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP

As role models and advocates, the honorees at our Spirit of East Harlem gala on October 16th have each made unique contributions to the well-being of families in New York City.
We invite you to join us in celebrating their spirit!

Doreen Montalvo

Doreen Montalvo

A Tribute to Chita Rivera
Performed by Doreen Montalvo

Guests at the Spirit of East Harlem will enjoy a Tribute to Chita Rivera, featuring songs from her ground-breaking career performed by Doreen Montalvo.

Doreen Montalvo is a theatre/ television/ film performer and recording artist, currently playing Gloria Estefan’s mother “Gloria Fajardo” in the hit Broadway musical “On Your Feet” at the Marquis Theatre. She recently released a solo album “American Soul/ Latin Heart,” a song from which was pre-selected for 2017 Latin Grammy consideration. She was an original cast member of the Tony Award winning “In The Heights,” and is a recipient of a 2007 Drama Desk award for best ensemble.

PRESS RELEASE (download)

Chita Rivera

Broadway Legend Chita Rivera to Receive Lifetime Spirit Award at the Spirit of East Harlem Gala

LSA Family Health Service event expected to raise $1 million for health and education programs for low-income New Yorkers

New York, NY – Broadway legend Chita Rivera will be presented a Lifetime Spirit Award on October 16th at the Spirit of East Harlem gala for LSA Family Health Service.  Also being honored that evening are Ralph Siciliano, Esq. and The Deerfield Foundation. The event is expected to raise over a million dollars to improve the health and wellbeing of families living in poverty in East Harlem and surrounding communities.

“I’m thrilled that the Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) Family Health Service have chosen to honor me with their Lifetime Spirit Award,” said Ms. Rivera.  “This steadfast organization stands for so many things that I believe in—strength of families, diversity, dignity, justice and so much more.”

“Chita Rivera’s ground-breaking career is deeply inspirational and important to people of Hispanic descent everywhere, but particularly in our community of East Harlem where families, especially children, face profound obstacles to success,” stated Reada Edelstein, CEO of LSA Family Health Service.  “Her accomplishments stand as an example of what can be achieved when innate talent is nurtured in a supportive environment and brought to fruition through hard work and commitment.”

The evening will include a musical tribute to Chita Rivera, performed by Doreen Montalvo.  Doreen Montalvo is a theatre/ television/ film performer and recording artist, currently playing Gloria Estefan’s mother “Gloria Fajardo” in the hit Broadway musical “On Your Feet” at the Marquis Theatre. She recently released a solo album “American Soul/ Latin Heart,” a song from which was pre-selected for 2017 Latin Grammy consideration. She was an original cast member of the Tony Award winning “In The Heights,” and is a recipient of a 2007 Drama Desk award for best ensemble.

The Corporate Spirit Award will be presented to The Deerfield Foundation for its commitment to healthcare initiatives that benefit children from underserved communities and all people that have disease or need healthcare services.  It has been a long-time supporter of LSA’s environmental health and nursing programs, which seek to reduce the disproportionally high rates of asthma and infant mortality in East Harlem.

Ralph Siciliano, Esq. will be presented the Community Spirit Award.  Mr. Siciliano served for many years as the chairman of the board of directors of LSA Family Health Service and remains an active board member, helping to lead the agency through a period of transition and growth.  Mr. Siciliano is a partner at Tannenbaum, Helpern, Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP.

John Capetta and Virginia Chambers, LSA board members and co-chairs of the event, commended the contributions of the honorees.  “In addition to her accomplishments as an entertainer and role model, Chita Rivera has given her time and support to AIDS-related organizations and campaigns for public health throughout her career,” said Mr. Capetta.  “The Deerfield Foundation has been a steadfast partner with LSA in improving health outcomes in the East Harlem community, and Ralph Siciliano is a tireless advocate for children and families.”   Ms. Chambers added: “LSA Family Health Service is honored to recognize the impressive contributions that the Spirit of East Harlem honorees have made to New York.”

The Spirit of East Harlem is endorsed by a number of elected and appointed officials, including Diego Gomez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico in New York, and United States Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The gala will take place on the evening of Monday, October 16, 2017, at Guastavino’s in Manhattan. More than 400 guests are expected to attend the event, which raises essential funding for LSA Family Health Service’s health, education, and family support programs.

Event information and detailed honoree bios can be found at the event website: SpiritofEastHarlem.com.

CONTACT: Asari Beale, Director of Communications 646-672-5200.


LSA Family Health Service, founded by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, strengthens and empowers vulnerable families and children by meeting their basic needs for food, healthcare, education and a safe home, in the belief that affirming families in their own dignity improves the entire community.  It reaches some of the most marginalized families in New York City and helps them overcome the barriers that poverty and isolation pose to family health and wellbeing.

28 Sep

#PayItForward: Motivating Teens to Serve

PayItForward Student Panel

September 27, 2017 — “Every one of us is part of the community we’re in.  You’re either contributing or detracting from it.”

This is what Marina Hunt, a graduate of the Spence School, took away from her high school volunteer experience.  Marina joined a panel of student volunteers at #PayItForward, a forum on youth community service hosted by LSA Family Health Service and Convent of the Sacred Heart School.

Learn about volunteer opportunities at LSA!

Additional speakers included Adam Garner of DoSomething.org; Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and certified school psychologist; Dr. Cappy Collins, a pediatrician who engages youth in community health programs; Naomi Varnis, an admissions director at Columbia University; and India LaRoda, Miss India America 2017 and a former Special Olympics volunteer with extensive service experience.

Audience members included a mix of students, parents and educators.  Their main questions were: what kind of service experience is most valuable for middle and high school students?  How can they get started? And how does it help them in the long term?

Naomi Varnis said, when she’s considering college applications “there is no one right type of service.  It’s about the quality of engagement that you have.”

For example, she said, volunteering with an organization over a long period shows that a student is really committed to its mission. “That kind of work can help students understand their role in the community.”

“When you are volunteering you are figuring out who you are as a person, how you interact with the world, and how you engage with other people,” said Dr. Sanam Hafeez.   She pointed out that the teen years are essential years for self discovery, and volunteering can play a positive role in helping teens understand and define themselves.

“Being a professional, doesn’t mean wearing a suit and tie.  It can be giving someone a box of cereal so their children can have food in the morning, or a bag of rice so they can have food at night.”

– Cristo Rey student Nathanael Hinds, on what he learned as a volunteer

The student panelist shared how volunteering changed their view of the world and of themselves.  “Through service, I have become more of an activist,” said Grace Wilson, student body president of Convent of the Sacred Heart who taught young children at the school’s student-run HEART summer camp.

Nathanael Hinds, a student of Cristo Rey New York High School who volunteered at the LSA food pantry throughout his sophomore year in high school, said volunteering opened his eyes to careers that can make a difference in the world.  “Being a professional,” he said, “doesn’t mean wearing a suit and tie.  It can be giving someone a box of cereal so their children can have food in the morning, or a bag of rice so they can have food at night.”

For students who don’t know where to start when it comes to volunteering, India LaRoda’s advice is for students to look to their own interests. “Think about what you’re passionate about,” she said.  “That will make you want to volunteer.”  Her own experience volunteering with the Special Olympics in middle school inspired her current work as a behavioral interventionist for children with special needs.

Adam Garner, campaigns manager at DoSomething.org, an online platform that motivates young people to make positive change, described the spirit of service as the desire to help others without the need for personal recognition.  He summed it up saying simply:  “If you can help, you help.”

#PayItForward was organized by the Parents Committee of LSA Family Health Service, a group committed to engaging youth in service at the East Harlem nonprofit.  The event was cohosted by the Covent of the Sacred Heart School and sponsored by Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Gourmet Garage.

PayItForward India LaRoda

India LaRoda and guests; India shared insight from her extensive volunteer experience.

PayItForward Guests

Students of Convent of the Sacred Heart school shared in the spirit of the event by volunteering to distribute materials and assist guests.

PayItForward Adam Garner

Adam Garner shared his personal take on what volunteering is really about.

PayItForward Student Panel

Student volunteers described what they learned from their service experiences.

PayItForward Expert Panel

Speakers described the benefits for teens engaged in service.

25 Sep

New Report: Community Health Workers Combat Asthma


LSA and the New York Academy of Medicine Report on an Innovative Approach to Reducing Childhood Asthma Symptoms

September 2017 — A new report from the Academy and Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service focuses on an innovative Community Health Worker (CHW) program which assists low-income families in addressing conditions that exacerbate childhood asthma. It describes program services and their impact from the perspective of participants, who note the importance of education, skill-building and advocacy for addressing unhealthy housing conditions.

The CHWs in our Environmental Health program are a first line of defense in health care.  As described in this report, CHWs helped families to develop knowledge and skills to reduce household asthma triggers; in addition, CHWs and became important advocates, helping families to settle of complaints with housing management.

As a result of LSA’s innovative approach to community health, 80% of school children in the program had fewer or no urgent care or emergency room visits as a result of asthma.

The findings and recommendations offer useful insights for modeling similar programs in cities nationwide.


Lead authors Linda Weiss, PhD, and Ray Lopez are available for interviews or background. Media contact: Asari Beale, LSA Family Health Service, 646-672-5200.

25 Sep

Relief Efforts for Mexico and Puerto Rico

United for Mexico and PR

A large number of LSA families are not only from Mexico, but are from the states that were most impacted by recent earthquakes.  In addition, a number of families, staff and community members are Puerto Rican and have family members on the island.

LSA is committed to helping those that are most vulnerable.  We are joining with others to collect items to support those impacted by these natural disasters.


LSA is partnering with MASA to collect goods specifically for people in towns in the states of Puebla and Morelos, where there is high need and where help thus far has been limited.  We will be accepting donations THIS WEEK, Monday through Friday, September 25th-29th, at LSA between 9am and 7pm.  LSA is located at 333 East 115th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue.  Please let the receptionist know that the donations are for Mexico relief efforts.  See the flyer below for additional locations in the Bronx and Brooklyn.  The items we are requesting are:

  • Food: canned food, milk powder, sugar, salt, coffee
  • First Aid items: guaze, bandages, alcohol, medicine, gloves, soap, antibiotic cream, mouth masks, aspirin, ibuprofen
  • Hygiene products: soap, sanitary towels, diapers, toilet paper, shampoo, deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrushes
  • sleeping bags, blankets, sheets


LSA is supporting the City’s relief efforts to collect critically-needed items for Puerto Rico. Donations of the items listed below can be dropped off at 18 firehouses and EMS stations across the five boroughs. The drop-off site located in East Harlem is Engine 28/ Ladder 11: 242 E. 111th Street, New York, NY 11220. A complete list of drop-off locations can be found here. Itens that will be accepted include:

  • diapers
  • baby food
  • batteries
  • first aid supplies
  • feminine hygiene products.

Donations will be accepted during the hours of 7 am through 9 pm.  Please be aware that FDNY members at these locations may not be present during drop-off hours if they are responding to an emergency.  Also, please note that the City is only collecting the items listed above.


14 Sep

Research and Innovation

LSA is embedding research into each of our programs to stay at the forefront of human service delivery

Below are some of the research efforts being made in our programs. The goal is to deepen our understanding of the community and to continue improving our services to help families move past the barriers to well-being that result from poverty.

Early Learning

New York University is working with families in the Parenting and Child Development program to research family makeup and its impact on parent-child bonding and language development. The aim is to create and pilot a new intervention program that will promote parent-child language interactions during common, everyday activities at home.

Greening and Asthma Prevention

The Environmental Health program is participating in several national and local studies that investigate the relationship between environment and public health. One study evaluates the health benefits of renovating affordable housing with “green” materials and technologies. Another study is looking into the impact of asthma management support for high-risk adult asthmatics. Finally, in partnership with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the New York Academy of Medicine, the program is participating in a study focused on the prevention and control of mold, which can trigger asthma symptoms and other adverse health conditions.

Reaching Immigrants

In 2016, our Advocacy program partnered with the Mexican Initiative for Deferred Action (MIDA) to do grassroots outreach in the community in order to provide immigration resources to eligible individuals. Data was collected to learn how DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) affects the lives of those who obtain it.

Tracking Health Trends

Two MD-MPH students from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are looking at Nursing data from 2012 to 2015 to help us understand health trends in our patient population. Thanks to a grant from the Sills Foundation, LSA embarked on a 3-year capacity-building ​project to develop agency-wide​ and program specific​ ​metrics to better measure ​impact and to implement best practices in the use of data systems​ to capture key information. ​

Photo caption: In 2016, LSA nurses made 860 home visits to provide prenatal and post-partum care.  Photo by Micah Rubin.

07 Sep

Asthma Prevention: Partners for Better Breathing

Environmental Health

Our Environmental Health program is partnering with area hospitals to reduce asthma-related emergency room visits.

Above: LSA’s community health workers measure air quality in apartments and help famlies understand how to control asthma triggers in their homes.

OneCity Health* is banking on a new partnership with LSA to decrease the number of child emergency room visits in Harlem due to asthma. Through the new collaboration, LSA community health workers will be embedded in Metropolitan Hospital, Harlem Hospital and Boriken Neighborhood Health Center. Their presence will make it easier for doctors to refer patients to our Environmental Health Services, introducing the program to a much larger population of children that can be helped by it.

Less Time in the Emergency Room
Emergency room visits come with a big price tag – and not just for the hospitals. When children miss school due to asthma-related ER visits, their school work can suffer. And missed work days for a child’s parent can threaten employment and family stability. To address the problem, LSA’s community health workers prevent costly ER visits by helping families remove mold, pests, dust and other toxic elements in their homes that may be triggering asthma symptoms in their children.

Until now, the program relied on doctors who knew about LSA to refer their patients. “We felt like we were missing a lot of people in the community that needed the service, but their doctors weren’t aware of us,” said Ray Lopez, Interim Director of Programs and Director of Environmental Health Services at LSA. Through the OneCity Health partnership, community health workers from LSA will have office hours at the hospitals and health center, making it easier for them to connect with patients who can benefit from our service.

“It’s a whole new thing to have our workers working side-by-side with doctors and nurses in the hospitals,” Lopez said. “Now we will get to kids who may be sicker, who may be living in more severe conditions than we are used to seeing. That helps us achieve our mission – to really find the people that need the service the most.”

In addition, Lopez said, the growing role of community health workers in healthcare creates an opportunity to advocate for positive change: “There’s going to be a bigger pool of workers visiting people for asthma in all these communities, not just in Harlem,” he said. “We have an opportunity to go beyond helping the individual. We can highlight patterns that we see and try to change policies that affect the community.”

He continued: “Before we were this tiny program in one corner of East Harlem, but now we have the potential for a larger platform to share and to lead. Our program has been in existence since the late 90s, so we have a lot of experience. We’re probably the longest running community health worker asthma program in the city. So we can lead in a way that we haven’t before.”

Currently, LSA is a lead partner in a study to evaluate methods of preventing and controlling mold and excess moisture in the homes of children with asthma. The study, in partnership with Columbia University and The New York Academy of Medicine, will help deepen our understanding of the best ways to prevent asthma-related emergencies and improve community health.

*OneCity Health is the NYC Health + Hospitals sponsored Performing Provider System (PPS).

This story appeared originally in our Spring 2017 Open Door Newsletter.