SUNY Downstate 2nd Annual Healthy Lifestyle Fair focuses on Autism Awareness and Acceptance

Participants registering at the health fair.
Participants registering at the health fair.
Photo courtesy SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University’s 2nd Annual Community Healthy Lifestyle Fair, Celebrating Autism Awareness and Acceptance, will focus on the vibrant and diverse world of autism, celebrate neurodiversity, and foster understanding, compassion and acceptance for individuals on the autism spectrum.

The free Annual Community Healthy Lifestyle Fair will occur on Saturday, Sept. 9, outside 445 Lenox Rd., in Brooklyn, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

UHD physicians and the Residency Program Coordinators Forum sponsor the event in collaboration with the Offices of Graduate Medical Education, Government & Community Relations, Strategic Planning, Diversity Equity Inclusion House Staff Council, and external partners.

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said in a statement on Friday that reported autism rates continue rising – currently 2.8 percent across the United States, and 18 percent of children have neurodisabilities (NDs).

The university and hospital center said the highest rates of autism in New York State occur in urban areas, including Brooklyn’s diverse communities of Black, Latino and immigrant families.

Census data and current autism prevalence estimate Brooklyn is home to 18,000 children with autism, the medical center said.

“Across the lifespan, the impact of autism and other NDs significantly burden individuals, families and communities,” the statement said. “Individuals with autism and NDs experience high rates of behavioral, medical and mental health problems.

“Yet, those in low-income, minority and immigrant communities have the least access to healthcare services,” it added.

Health fair face painting.
Kids getting their faces painted at a health fair. Photo courtesy SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Along with therapeutic services such as Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapy, and appropriate school programs, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said one proven approach to treating autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), typically covered through health insurance.

Yet, about 70 percent of families with Medicaid healthcare coverage have, until recently, had no access to quality ABA services, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said.

Despite anticipated changes, it said ABA access for Medicaid recipients remains limited.

“Significant health disparities continue in accessing neurodevelopmental evaluation, early identification, treatment and care,” SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said.

Dr. Harris Huberman, developmental pediatrician in the Pediatrics Department at University Hospital at Downstate, will discuss how autism presents, neurodiversity, treatments and care.

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said Dr. Huberman and colleagues in Psychology, Child Neurology, Child/Adolescent Psychiatry and Gastrointestinal Services are leaders in strengthening integrated care and treatment.

In 2021, Downstate received a federal HRSA grant to begin a Leadership Education in Neurodisabilities (Brooklyn LEND) program to address disparities and improve care for individuals with autism and other NDs.

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said Jennifer Morrison-Diallo, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, LEND project director, works to reduce these disparities through training in which professionals, family members and self-advocates with NDs learn together, concentrating on evaluation, clinical care, advocacy, community awareness and systems change.

Drs. Meseret Tena and Eugene Dinkevich, lead Downstate’s Pediatric Outpatient Clinic and Faculty Practice Clinic in which developmental screening is part of pediatric primary care.

The public can call (718) 270-7207 for a primary care appointment is needed.

For an initial developmental evaluation and care for autism and NDs, call Downstate’s Child Development Clinic at (718) 270-2272.

For inquiries about the Brooklyn LEND Program, email [email protected].

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University said there will be “lots to enjoy” at the 2nd Annual Community Healthy Lifestyle Fair: Family activities, yoga, prizes and healthy food.

“Get essential health checks like blood pressure, hearing, and vision,” it said, adding that some screenings might need insurance details.

For more information or to become a sponsor, contact [email protected].