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North Philadelphia Health Enterprise Zone to Address Health Disparities


Harrisburg, PA - Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas and Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Pedro Rivera were joined by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney; executives from Einstein Medical Center, Hahnemann University Hospital, Temple University, and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia; legislators; stakeholders; and other advocates to announce the Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ) – a plan to address the health disparities in North Philadelphia.

“Is there a better way to provide health care for the residents of North Philadelphia? That’s the question that the HEZ is designed to answer,” said Dallas. “By bringing together government, health care providers, hospitals, philanthropy and community stakeholders, we hope to increase access, improve quality, and reduce health disparities for North Philadelphia families.”

Rather than simply expanding the strategies currently in place, the HEZ will try new and innovative community-based approaches to health care. Instead of the traditional medical model, the HEZ will reward approaches to reduce health disparities, improve health outcomes, and stabilize and reduce health care costs.

"There is currently a disparity in health outcomes for residents in North Philly compared to those in other parts of the city. Life expectancy is lower, and statistics show they experience a higher rate of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” said Mayor Kenney. “We need to work collaboratively with system partners to make life better for those who live here."

“Research shows that good health can have a tremendous impact on student academic growth by reducing absenteeism, easing disciplinary issues, and improving a student’s ability to focus and learn,” PDE Secretary Rivera said. “Introducing school-based health services can help ensure students have access to the routine and preventative care that will help them grow academically, physically, and socially.”

Why North Philadelphia?

There are nearly 300,000 Medicaid recipients in the North Philadelphia zone. That is 13 percent of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid population in a relatively small area. These families are more likely to experience deep poverty that affects not only their health but also their education, employment and income.

At the same time, North Philadelphia is home to five hospitals, four health systems and two universities in this region. With all of these resources within the HEZ, there is a great opportunity for coordination and collaboration.   

How will the HEZ Work?

The HEZ will focus on four goals:

  • Innovation: Developing, deploying, and coordinating human and technological resources to improve and elevate the social, economic, and health outcomes for North Philadelphia.
  • Investment: Redirecting and investing resources into core infrastructure institutions to achieve long-term health, stability, and sustainability in the zone.
  • Incentive: Aligning public and private capital and financial models to properly resource community, staff, and institutions within the zone to affect short and long-term change.
  • Integration: Focusing on coordination of efforts, reducing duplication, improving quality, and promoting economies of scale.

While the process will be flexible and responsive to the participating parties’ priorities and ideas, today the HEZ participants announced the initial steps of the HEZ process:

  • Convening Stakeholder Committees: The HEZ will convene several subject matter-specific committees in November to conduct a "gap analysis" that looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the current healthcare system in North Philadelphia. These committees will examine impacts and approaches of state and local government, the health care industry, educational institutions, community groups, and technology. The findings will be released in a March 2017 preliminary report. Interested applicants should visit the Top Issues section at
  • Supporting Community Schools: The HEZ will make up to $1.5 million available to the City of Philadelphia to improve access to higher quality health care in cooperation with the Mayor’s Community Schools Initiative. The city will coordinate with PDE to develop proposals that will help deliver health care at school and reduce absenteeism for kids with chronic conditions such as asthma.
  • Reducing Barriers to Care for Super-Utilizers:  The federal government reports that five percent of Medicaid recipients can drive as much as 54 percent of all Medicaid costs in a particular area. These individuals, often called “super-utilizers” have the most complex needs of any individuals served and have the worst health outcomes. In year one, the HEZ will identify the top 100 adult and 100 pediatric utilizers and create a coordinated approach that leverages the resources of the HEZ to better coordinate all aspects of their care and ensure they receive the best possible care.
  • Providing Employment Opportunities: Financial stability is a key driver in the health of an individual and the health of a community. The HEZ will work with community stakeholders to help ensure that the HEZ provides employment opportunities for the North Philadelphia residents and civic engagement. The HEZ will set a goal of announcing its first employment initiatives in January 2017.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kait Gillis - 717.424.7606

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