To Walk in Poverty's Shoes

June 13th, 2016 - An innovative poverty simulation exercise to expose providers to the reality of struggling to make ends meet is used by HAPN Hudson Valley.

If you haven’t experienced poverty, you don’t know how much it can potentially shape behavior and attitude.  Shame, anger, embarrassment, fear, and the need to protect oneself by not speaking or revealing the whole truth… manifest themselves in medical offices, hospitals, social service agencies, rehab centers, and schools. 

To help healthcare and community organizations experience the realities of poverty, HealthlinkNY’s Health Action Priorities Network (HAPN) in the Hudson Valley is conducting a series of “poverty simulations” as part of an innovative experimental learning project called the Blueprint for Health Equity. Eleven organizations will participate in the first exercise, which will take place Friday, June 17th at Safe-Harbors of the Hudson in Newburgh, New York. New groups of participants will be invited to apply and take part in exercises in both Poughkeepsie and Westchester in the fall.

“The Blueprint for Health Equity is designed to open the eyes of physicians, nurses, government service workers, and community-based organizations to the everyday challenges many of their patients and clients face — and why those challenges sometimes interfere with a person’s interaction with safety net providers,” explains Adam Hughes, MPH, HealthlinkNY’s director of community initiatives.

During the simulation, participants assume the roles of different families facing poverty. The task for each family is to provide basic necessities and shelter during four 15-minute “weeks,” while navigating the complex world and requirements set by government, healthcare and social service agencies.

“After going through the poverty exercise, participants will talk about what actions they can take to make their organizations more responsive. They will be asked to form their own Health Equity Taskforces, and in six months, we will look at what they have done to see how it is working.”


A Guided Experience

The poverty simulation, called “A Walk in My Shoes,” will be led by a HAPN partner organization, WestCOP (Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc.)

The participants in the June event are:

•        Bronx Partners for Health Communities (PBHC)

•        Human Development Services of Westchester (HDSW)

•        Maternal-Infant Services Network

•        Mental Health Association in Orange County Inc.

•        Montefiore Hudson Valley Collaborative

•        Orange County Department of Health

•        Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley

•        Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. (RSS)

•        Rockland County Department of Health

•        Rockland County Department of Mental Health

•        Center for Regional Healthcare Innovation at Westchester Medical Center


HAPN’s Two Hudson Valley Health Priorities

HealthlinkNY’s HAPN in the Hudson Valley is a New York State Department of Health Population Health Improvement Program (PHIP). Its purpose is to provide neutral setting in which a broad group of healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and health officials can collaborate with other stakeholders to agree on regional priorities to address. HAPN members have identified two priorities as their area of focus: behavioral health (including mental health and substance abuse) and social determinants of health. The expectation is that the Blueprint for Health Equity will lead to innovative ways to tackle the non-medical circumstances that can hinder good health.

HAPN in the Hudson Valley comprises seven counties: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. In addition, HealthlinkNY operates a second Population Health Improvement Program called HAPN in the Southern Tier, comprising the counties of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Tioga, and Tompkins. HAPN Southern Tier members have elected to focus on mental health and transportation disparities as their regional health priorities.

For more information about HealthlinkNY’s population and community health initiatives, please click here.