When Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s South Philadelphia primary care practice was exploring how to expand, staff first considered renting a larger space someplace in the neighborhood.
Instead, the Hospital pursued a much more creative option: CHOP elected to partner with the city of Philadelphia to design and build the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center, a first-of-its-kind facility that houses the pediatric primary care practice, the Philadelphia Health Center 2, a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the city’s DiSilvestro Recreation Center.
“From all accounts, a public-private partnership like this is unprecedented,” says Peter Grollman, CHOP’s Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, who was one of several CHOP leaders who helped guide the project. “Integrating health, literacy and wellness will do remarkable things for the well-being of families.”
Award-winning community programs
Keeping families and kids healthy is the focus of more than 100 varied outreach programs Children’s Hospital has in the many Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey communities it serves. CHOP’s commitment to improving the lives of children beyond the walls of the Hospital was recognized nationally by the Association of American Medical Colleges with its 2015 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service.
“We’re changing the face of healthcare in the community in breakthrough ways,” says President and CEO Madeline Bell. “These novel approaches allow us to bring our expertise into neighborhoods and collaborate with local groups to tackle specific needs.”
To take advantage of the unique synergy of the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center, CHOP and Health Center 2 patients will receive “prescriptions for health” that draw upon the resources at hand. For a child who is obese or an adult with diabetes, for example, the prescriptions may include researching healthy recipes on a library computer or checking out organized fitness activities at the rec center.
Health fairs are envisioned that combine information from the library, advice from pediatric and adult healthcare specialists, and activities from the rec center. To reach neighborhood teens, CHOP has hired an Adolescent Health Outreach Coordinator who will work with all four entities at the center to engage with the youth who are served by them. Just as the facility design included feedback from neighbors, programming will be responsive to community needs. Opportunities are limitless.
The Karabots model
The Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center, a CHOP Care Network primary care location in West Philadelphia, is a dynamic model of caring for kids inside the building and caring for the whole community outside it.
In partnership with The Enterprise Center (TEC), which provides business education and economic development opportunities to high-potential, minority entrepreneurs, families that have children enrolled in CHOP’s Early Head Start program based at Karabots can attend “Home Plate” healthy cooking classes at TEC’s industrial kitchen. Aramark chefs provide the culinary know-how. CHOP sought help from TEC’s Walnut Hill Community Farm, located nearby on Market Street, to design, plant and maintain a new Health and Wellness Garden at Karabots. Fresh produce from the garden is shared with neighborhood families, helping them provide their children well-balanced meals.
“Integrating health, literacy and wellness will do remarkable things for the well-being of families.”
— Peter Grollman, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs
Teens at West Philadelphia High School, a few blocks away, can visit a CHOP nurse for information on pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention. Students are referred for follow-up appointments at Karabots, which is also a location for several evidence-based programs, such as I MATTER from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that focus on teen health.
More than 100 Hospital employees have tapped into the CHOP Cares Community Fund and Grants to support their health and wellness projects since the grants were launched in 2013. Frequently, grant projects work hand-in-hand with existing community outreach, leveraging CHOP’s expertise and extending its influence to a broader audience.
For example, staff from the Healthy Weight Program used a grant to fund a West Philadelphia site of the Healthy Kids Running Series, which provides neighborhood children with an educational and fun introduction to the world of running. Children living in local shelters served by CHOP’s Homeless Health Initiative were specifically invited to participate, and several did.
“Children’s Hospital goes beyond providing excellent patient care,” says Grollman. “We are committed to using our knowledge and passion in the community to help kids be all they can be.”