Remembering Megan Charlop, a Fighter for Bronx Children’s Health

Five years ago today, the Bronx tragically lost one of its greatest advocates for children’s health. Megan Charlop was the director of community health at the Montefiore School Health Program, but to the many children she worked with, she was affectionately referred to as the Bronx’s “Mother Theresa”.

Megan was someone who walked the walk when it came to promoting public health and an advocate for promoting fitness activities, especially for children. Ironically, she was killed riding her bicycle on Crotona Avenue just south of East Tremont Avenue, attempting to avoid a car door that opened suddenly.

Photo credit: Norwoodnews.org

Photo credit: Norwoodnews.org

Despite this tragedy, Megan’s legacy is not forgotten. Today, hundreds of individuals in dozens of Bronx organizations continue her work in tirelessly advocating for health and safety issues throughout the Bronx. Community Board 2’s recent approval of protected bike lanes on the Bruckner Expressway’s service roads is a great example of steps communities can take to make their community safer for bicyclists. The same is true for the activities of the City’s Parks and Health Departments, along with a small army of community partners, that promote physical activity and better eating habits for the city’s residents, especially for kids.

There is still much that needs to be done for all of our communities. Too many of them have no access to the amenities or resources that other parts of the city have. Bicycle riding in the Bronx is still not for the faint of heart, as too many vehicle drivers show too little respect for bicyclists, blocking already narrow lanes, where these lanes are available. Searching for a healthy meal in many neighborhoods can almost feel like searching for a needle in a haystack and contributes to the high obesity and diabetes rates in the borough. And the Bronx still ranks last in health factors and outcomes out of every county in the state.

KIMG0359Megan knew how to fight hard, because she knew how hard the fight was to improve public health, especially in communities that struggle with other issues such as poverty, housing, and public safety. This fight is no where near over. But it is time that we continue this work.

For those of us who knew Megan personally, let us reflect on this moment to remember her charm and her tenacity, and use that to advocate for the changes needed in the Bronx. For those who didn’t know her, know this. She cared. A lot.

It’s time again that we honor her memory by teaching everyone to take charge of their health and to help those who struggle with health issues where and when we can. Every step counts. #Not62.

Thank you Megan for your continued inspiration.

Fernando P. Tirado is a former district manager for a Bronx Community Board and has been involved in local politics and economic development issues, particularly in the West Bronx. He also writes for his Facebook Blog, Bronx On The Go. Written for the Bronx Chronicle.