Community Programs

Under Dr. Valentín Fuster’s​ leadership, Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital has implemented programs that deepen our understanding of the most effective ways to change habits in our community, instill healthy habits from an early age that last a lifetime, and reduce risk factors to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Your VF100 Campaign support helps us continue to expand this outreach and dramatically improve lives across the five boroughs of New York City.

Now Is the Time to Invest in Cardiac Care

Dr. Fuster is passionate about educational interventions, beginning with children under five, when they can most absorb important information about healthy habits. Since 2006, Dr. Fuster has partnered with Sesame Street to reach children at this “golden age.” With the help of Dr. Ruster, a Sesame Street Muppet modeled after Dr. Fuster, children and their caretakers worldwide learn about healthy lifestyle values. This pioneering initiative seeks to reduce obesity, heart attack, and other conditions by addressing cardiovascular risk factors at an early age with a health education curriculum around activities related to diet, physical activity, emotional management, and healthy lifestyle choices. With funding from the VF100 Campaign, The Five Boroughs Project – Children’s Health and Socioeconomic Implications Project will expand these efforts throughout the five boroughs of New York City over the next two years.

Early Education Program NYC Chart

The full program consists of 45 hours of classroom activities, and eight hours of family activities at home, over a four-month period. Since teachers are critical to its success, they undergo six to eight hours of virtual training on the materials and learn how to put the program into practice. Intermittent check-ins are scheduled, too, in order to guide and support the teachers during this period.

To determine the program’s impact, Dr. Fuster and his team will record each child’s baseline height and weight and evaluate changes in body mass index, exercise routine, and eating behaviors over the course of the intervention. They will also measure the effect of socioeconomic indicators, including family health access, household income, parental education level, school district poverty index, and environmental factors such as secondhand smoke. Furthermore, they will examine the influence of teachers’ motivation, stress, and health behaviors.

Healthy Community Programs

Throughout the project, the program will be implemented in kindergarten and again in second grade in half of the participating schools, and only in the second grade in the other half of schools. This is to gain insight into the possible need for a refresher course to maximize children’s acquisition of healthy habits.

Assessments will take place at the beginning and end of kindergarten and at the beginning and end of second grade; an additional follow-up assessment will be done 18 months at the conclusion of the programming to determine the longer-term impact on child health outcomes. Analysis of all collected data will continue into 2028.

Your support will help us cover direct costs, from personnel and equipment to needed supplies. The Five Boroughs Project is the first big step towards helping thousands of children and families start and maintain a healthy lifestyle. By helping one community at a time, the widespread adoption of this program has the potential to save many lives in New York City and beyond.

The Impact of Community Outreach

Dr. Valentín Fuster built Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital not only to be one of the world’s preeminent heart institutes but also to shift the foundations of how we view the concept of health in our communities. A lifetime of research has brought him around the world—from Colombia to Barcelona, Spain to the urban center of Harlem, NY—where he has worked closely with children and adults, principals and political leaders, schools, and hospital clinics. Dr. Valentín Fuster has concluded that by learning healthy habits at an early age and reinforcing cardiovascular risk factors at the family level, we can hope to eradicate preventable heart disease. Your gift to the VF100 Campaign will continue this outreach, specifically supporting Dr. Valentín Fuster’s most ambitious undertaking yet: the Five Boroughs Project in New York City.

The Five Boroughs Project

The Five Boroughs Project is the culmination of Dr. Valentín Fuster’s decades-long research to understand the biological, socioeconomic, and environmental mechanisms that affect heart disease. This pioneering, health education initiative builds upon past successes to create a healthy lifestyle curriculum for children around the world. The Five Boroughs Project will impact New York City schools and our local communities for children ages 4 and 5, with the goal of enrolling 2,500 children in the early health education program.

In collaboration with Sesame Workshop, Dr. Valentín Fuster designed the program around activities related to diet, physical activity, management of emotions, and healthy lifestyle choices. The children learn by reading stories, watching videos, engaging in group activities, and through play and artistic expression. The four-month program consists of 45 hours of classroom activities and eight hours of family activities at home.

The time to pursue the Five Boroughs Project is now—the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease is obesity and its associated conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, caused by poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity. Your support will allow Dr. Valentín Fuster to move the Five Boroughs Project forward and incorporate genetic, genomic, and microbiome analysis. Now, with a perfected syllabus in hand, Dr. Valentín Fuster is expanding on this knowledge with the launch of the Five Boroughs Project.

You can join Dr. Valentín Fuster and help thousands of children and families start and maintain a healthy lifestyle with your support of the VF100 Campaign. Make a gift today.

Dr. Fuster with Cookie Monster on Sesame Street

Where the Five Boroughs Project Began

The culmination of the Colombia and The Healthy Habit Study, Spain and the Sí Program, and Harlem, NYC and The FAMILIA studies represent Dr. Valentín Fuster’s dedication to preventing cardiovascular disease and his understanding that an effective way to improve population health is through educational interventions and ultimately the launch of the Five Boroughs Project in New York City schools.

Dr. Fuster holding hands with a heart mascot at at a FAMILIA event

Harlem and The FAMILIA Project

A program that led to the culminating Five Boroughs Project, the FAMILIA Project is a pioneering, educational initiative that provides early childhood heart-health intervention and education for preschoolers ages 3-5 and their parents and caregivers, with the goal of creating family-based cultures of health to reduce obesity, heart attack, and other conditions. It aims to reduce each child’s future risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, by creating a family-based “culture” of health.

Spain and the Sí Program

Dr. Valentín Fuster enrolled 75,000 children ages 3-6 in his program across Spain. The curriculum consists of 70 hours of teaching healthy habits over a six-month period and includes four modules: how your body works, healthy food, physical activity, and how to control your emotions and learn to say no when confronted with alcohol, drugs, smoking, and more. We have followed 2,000 of the participants for nine years and shown that this program has lead to healthier lifestyles as young adults.

Dr. Fuster with children in Spanish classroom
Dr. Fuster playing Dr. Ruster on Sesame Street

Sesame Street Education Project

Dr. Valentín Fuster has been the inspiration for a Muppet doctor, Dr. Valentín Ruster, on the Sesame Street mini-series, Super Healthy Monsters, and Barrio Sésamo: Monstrous Supersanos, the Spanish version of Sesame Street. The character teaches young children about the human body, healthy food, exercise, and the impact of emotions on health.

After launching this early health education program on television, Dr. Valentín Fuster and his team found that children had more knowledge of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, were healthier overall, and more likely to practice healthy behaviors long-term. They also determined that it is optimal to teach children heart-healthy habits when they are ages 3-6 since this is when their brains are very flexible and more capable of storing information that will become habitual behavior over a lifetime.

Colombia and The Healthy Habit Study

In 2009, Dr. Valentín Fuster’s global health projects team launched their first healthy habit study in Bogotá, Colombia. A total of 1,215 school children from ages 3-5 participated in a five-month health education program. The students learned how the body works and healthy diet and lifestyle choices that promote long-term healthy behavior. They found that children enrolled in the program were more likely to maintain their knowledge of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle over time and practice healthy behaviors as well. Since then, Colombia has adopted this health curriculum on a national scale with approximately 25,000 children enrolled annually.

Colombian children

“This campaign is really important because there's so much more we can do in cardiovascular disease for patients globally through the combined efforts of the team we have here at Mount Sinai.”

David H. Adams, MD

Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Professor and System Chairman

Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery & Cardiac Surgeon-in-Chief, Mount Sinai Health System