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12/06/2019

Wolf Administration Highlights Investments to Improve Health, Education Outcomes for Students, Families in Philadelphia’s Health Enterprise Zone

Philadelphia, PA - Wolf Administration officials from the departments of Health and Human Services today visited one of Education Plus Health’s school-based health centers that improve access and remove barriers to high quality health care to influence educational outcomes for underserved communities within North Philadelphia’s Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ). The HEZ is an eight-mile area spanning Broad Street in the West Oak Lane section to City Hall, where more than half of Philadelphia’s Medicaid population resides.

“In order to help students and families break the cycle of poverty and lead healthier lives, we must invest in these underserved communities and establish whole-person and whole-family supports that help people in poverty overcome barriers to good health across their lives,” said Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller. “By engaging with students’ learning environments to improve health and educational outcomes, we are ensuring every student is ready and able to learn to their full potential and families can ultimately achieve enriching, healthier lives.”

In February 2019, the Wolf Administration awarded five grantees $3 million to support projects that would utilize community health workers to promote better health outcomes in the HEZ. This funding created innovative projects that use community health workers to address health disparities in children, older adults, and those who are frequent users of medical services by increasing health promotion and education in the HEZ. Education Plus Health created the School-Based Health Center Community Health Worker project with this funding to improve child and adolescent health outcomes by integrating community health workers into each school-based health center team to screen students and identify concerns related to asthma, diabetes, mental health, substance use and abuse, food insecurity and healthy weight, and multi-generational health needs.

Since starting the project, Education Plus Health has served nearly 400 students and families thus far across eight school-based health centers in the HEZ. These school-based health centers actively reduce absenteeism, emergency room utilization, hospitalization, and Medicaid costs overall. Education Plus Health also collaborates with school nurses and physicians to improve existing services or challenges for students and families, like increasing parent outreach for insurance, health concerns, or available assistance programs and resources for the students and families. 

“The Wolf Administration continuously works to ensure Pennsylvania’s children stay healthy by making sure they are vaccinated, eating nutritious foods and staying active,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “To meet this goal, we must start with making healthcare available and accessible, especially in underserved areas. Initiatives like Education Plus Health are integral in our efforts to increase vaccination rates and decrease childhood obesity.”

The Wolf Administration recently announced its intent to issue a one-year extension of grant funding to the five agencies that operate the community health worker programs, which also include Bebashi- Transition to Hope, Project HOME, the Health Federation of Philadelphia, and New Kensington Community Development Corporation. The funding will support the continued efforts of these projects and build upon the progress of their first year.

Nearly 320,000 Medicaid recipients – nearly 13 percent of Pennsylvania’s total Medicaid population – live within the HEZ. As a whole, 31 percent of residents within the HEZ live below the federal poverty line, twice the national average, and the life expectancy of children in the HEZ is 20 years shorter compared to children in wealthier ZIP Codes. These investments will build on the work of community health workers already operating in the HEZ to bridge the gap between health care providers and patients by helping patients navigate the health systems and social support services available in their community, as well as advocate for the patients they work with.

The HEZ was identified through a partnership of DHS, DOH, the City of Philadelphia, area hospitals, universities, and community partners. Beneficiaries in zip codes in this corridor experience multiple health conditions and significant socio-economic barriers that result in high medical costs and utilization and chronic poor health.

For more information on the HEZ, visit www.dhs.pa.gov

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - 717-425-7606

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