Research Partnerships


At Union Settlement, we are dedicated to ensuring that the work we do is as effective as possible, and has the broadest and most positive impact on the lives of East Harlem’s residents. One way we do this is by partnering with academic institutions on research to evaluate the impact of the services being provided, and seeking to replicate and expand the programs that work best. Here are a few examples of these efforts:

Asthma Prevention

Over the years, Union Settlement has collaborated with the New York Academy of Medicine’s Center for Urban Epidemiological Studies on a series of efforts to reduce pediatric asthma in East and Central Harlem. A joint study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) led to the development of a preschool-based asthma tracking/monitoring system and asthma education program to improve asthma care for children enrolled in preschool childcare programs. The systems we helped develop are now the New York City Department of Health model of care, and are being replicated by 180 childcare centers throughout the city. We have also enrolled nearly 6,000 children in our asthma tracking and training program, training nearly 900 parents and staff members in asthma awareness and prevention.

Diabetes Prevention

Union Settlement is the community partner with Mount Sinai Medical Center on two major research projects focused on reducing minority health disparities in East Harlem. The first is funded by the National Institute of Health. The grant team undertook a healthy lifestyles intervention aimed at preventing diabetes among community residents with elevated blood sugars. The goal is to help individuals exercise and eat better and through changes such as eliminating soda, eating healthy snacks and learning to read food labels. The intervention participants—who are predominantly Spanish-speaking, low-income, undereducated women—lost significantly more weight than the control group and maintained weight loss at 12 months (7.2 pounds versus 2.4 pounds). The project was renewed for five more years and will ultimately enroll 400 adults.

The second project is a five-year Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant awarded by the CDC. The grant supports the activities of the Community IMPACT Diabetes Center, an initiative charged with working toward eliminating diabetes disparities among African Americans and Latinos with or at risk for diabetes using community-based participatory approaches. Union Settlement serves as the project’s community partner, collaborating on a series of efforts to understand and meet the needs of the community to help people better prevent and control diabetes.

Research articles resulting from these two projects include:

Parikh, P.,  Simon, E., Fei, K., Looker, H., Goytia, C. & Horowitz, C., Results of a Pilot Diabetes Prevention Intervention in East Harlem, New York City:  Project HEED, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 100, No. S1, 232-239(April 2010)

Horowitz, C., Brenner, B., Lachapelle, S., Amara, D. & Arniella, G., Effective Recruitment of Minority Populations through Community-Led Strategies, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2009;37(6S1), 195-200 (December 2009)

West, B., Parikh, P., Arniella, G. & Horowitz, C., Observations and Recommendations for Community-Based Diabetes Screenings, The Diabetes Educator, Vol. 36, No. 6, 887-892 (November 2010)”

Helping At-Risk Youth Lead Healthier Lives

Union Settlement partnered with the Hunter College School of Social Work on a three-year Youth Empowerment Program grant funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program sought to address serious health risks faced by youth at East Harlem’s Isaac Newton Middle School for Math & Science. The Bridges Youth Empowerment Program served a cohort of 40 East Harlem students from the beginning of the eighth grade through the end of their tenth grade year, offering a comprehensive year-round, school-based program of academic, personal, preventive and enrichment services designed to keep them on positive, healthy paths. The program’s intervention was trauma-informed and resilience-oriented in response to conditions in East Harlem, one of New York City’s most impoverished communities. Through standardized screening and survey instruments, focus groups, interviews and secondary data sources, the program’s evaluation team tracked progress on the major goals of the program to determine the impact of a resilience-based comprehensive program on empowering youth to overcome the obstacles of their environment, gain new skills and enhance their capacity to make healthier life choices. A press release providing more details about this grant is available at

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