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The Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative Expands to Chicago and Tampa

National Initiative to Improve the Quality of Life for People with Parkinson’s

MIAMI — The National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) announced today that the Chicago and Tampa communities will be the newest sites to join the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative. The program uses a medical-community partnership model to create a network of support at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) around the country dedicated to improving quality of life for people with Parkinson’s.

NPF awarded grants to the JCCs of Chicago and the Tampa JCC & Federation, along with an NPF Center of Excellence (COE) in each city—Northwestern University Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center and University of South Florida Byrd Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center—to provide this Parkinson’s wellness program in their communities. Together, the JCCs and COEs will facilitate access to safe and Parkinson’s-appropriate exercise programs as well as support and educational opportunities, all in a welcoming, community-based setting.

"Of the treatments available today, exercise remains the most promising way to try to slow the impact of Parkinson’s. Our goal at NPF is to partner with leading community organizations to help ensure that people have access to safe and Parkinson’s-appropriate exercise programs,” said Peter Schmidt, PhD, NPF’s Chief Mission Officer. “We were very impressed with the proposals from the JCCs and NPF Centers of Excellence and expect to see this program changing the lives of people with Parkinson’s in the greater Chicago and Tampa areas.”

The national program is based on the groundbreaking Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Program - NYC, which launched in 2007 as a partnership between The Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders at NYU Langone Medical Center and JCC Manhattan. The Greater Boston and Greater Washington, DC, communities were the first to launch the national initiative in June of this year, and enrollment at both sites has already doubled. Chicago and Tampa will begin their programming—including three Parkinson’s-specific fitness classes, a weekly care partner support group and seasonal community events—in January 2016.

The program in all five cities – Boston, Chicago, New York, Tampa and Washington, DC – is open to the full community, no matter a participant’s medical or religious affiliation. Classes are offered at low cost, and JCC membership is not required to participate.

“JCC Chicago believes strongly in providing a foundation for lifelong health and wellness within the communities we serve,” said Todd Braman, Assistant General Director of JCC Chicago. “The generous support from the National Parkinson Foundation and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation enables us to create programs for those living with Parkinson’s who otherwise have very limited access to the specialized exercise and movement activities that are so critical to maintaining their health. We are fortunate to have Northwestern University School of Medicine and CJE Senior Life as partners in this endeavor, as they are at the forefront of Parkinson’s care and support for individuals and their families.”

“The Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative will merge the expertise of an NPF Center of Excellence with the warmth and intimacy of a community center. Through this collaboration, we will bring education, support, and exercise initiatives to people outside of the space of a major academic center,” said Danny Bega, MD, MSCI, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology at Northwestern University.

“The strength of the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative is its focus on high quality, medical and community collaboration in service of our patients and families,” said Amy Lemen, LCSW, managing director, the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative and Program Director, The Fresco Institute at NYU Langone. “We have taken great care in selecting excellent partners in each community.”

"We here at the JCC Manhattan congratulate the JCCs of Chicago and the Tampa JCC & Federation on their commitment to serve the Parkinson's community. We're proud to share with them what we've learned over the past 8 years in the development of the Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Program-NYC. We are grateful for The Fresco Institute at NYU Langone and the National Parkinson Foundation for their collaboration and partnership,” said Joy Levitt, Executive Director, JCC Manhattan.

This program is funded through the generous support of The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. If you would like to learn more about The Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative, visit or call the NPF Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636). 

About Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
Affecting an estimated one million Americans and four to six million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for PD and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

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