"Healthy Schools Healthy Families" Targets Medically Underserved NYC Elementary School Students

Made Possible Through $2.28 Million Grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services<br /><br />New Health Care Initiative, Coalition of Community-Based Organizations Announced

Nov 15, 2004


A new health care initiative for medically underserved children in Harlem and Washington Heights has been announced by a partnership including the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the New York City Department of Education, the New York City Department of Health, and a coalition of five other community-based organizations. The initiative – called the Healthy Schools Healthy Families (HSHF) Coalition program – is funded by a three-year $2.28 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources, Services and Administration (HRSA) through its Healthy Community Access Program Initiative (HCAP). This is the second time the communities of Harlem and Washington Heights received HCAP funding; they are the only communities to receive this grant in New York State this year.

The HSHF program, which will initially serve 5,000 children in five elementary schools (grades K through 5) in Harlem and Washington Heights, seeks to improve the health of these children by creating school-based health initiatives, including programs for obesity, asthma, depression, and other chronic conditions, and facilitating access to health insurance, social services, preventive, primary, and specialty care.

"Currently there are far too many New York City children with unmet health needs. By targeting those children with the greatest need, HSHF will seek to sew up the holes in the health care safety net," says Dr. Mary McCord, HSHF principal investigator, co-director of community pediatrics at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, and associate professor of clinical pediatrics and public health at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is also associate clinical professor at the Mailman School of Public Health's Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health.

"While almost all these children are eligible for health insurance under the Child Health Plus program, many still have unmet health needs; this is due to both inadequate and inefficient health services – including poor coordination of health information – and cultural and language barriers," says Dr. McCord.

In order to improve efficiency and effectiveness of health care, the HSHF program will collect and track data, such as immunization status, insurance status, and screenings results. "Currently, there is no one system that tracks information; this creates gaps and duplication of information, which results in errors and makes it difficult to identify a child's unmet needs," says Dr. McCord.

Poor coordination of services also increases the rates of severe illnesses and hospitalizations.

"A high proportion of these hospitalizations are preventable," says Dr. McCord.

"Lack of adequate health care can also be attributed to language and cultural barriers," says Dr. McCord. Latinos and African-Americans comprise more than 80 percent of the population in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood. A large portion of the population in Washington Heights are born outside the United States.

"We will seek to cultivate healthy lifestyle behaviors, including physical fitness, good nutrition, and regular doctor visits," says Anita Lee, the program director for the HSHF Coalition. HSHF will also provide case management for select high-risk children.

The program will provide outpatient pediatric primary care services through the NewYork-Presbyterian Ambulatory Care Network's eight full-service locations, the Community League Health Center and the Helen B. Atkinson Health Center of Community Healthcare Network, along with other community pediatricians.

Together with Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ambulatory Care Network of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and the following organizations make up the Healthy School Healthy Families Coalition: Community Healthcare Network, New York Road Runners Foundation, Dominican Women's Development Center, Alianza Dominicana, Together in Dance, Inc., New York City Department of Education, and New York City Department of Health.