How Children's Hospitals Are Building Better Communities

How Children's Hospitals Are Building Better Communities

Here are three ways children’s hospitals are helping improve the health and well-being of their communities.

In celebration of Community Health Improvement Week, here are three ways children's hospitals are engaging in their communities to improve health outcomes beyond the hospital walls. Regardless of how large or small the initiative, these hospitals have shown that investing in the community can yield positive results in the health of children and their families.

Healthy environments for families

Children in West Philadelphia have asthma rates three times higher than the national average, a condition worsened by poor housing conditions. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP) has partnered with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the community, and other minority-owned local businesses to support the removal of asthma triggers in West and South Philadelphia homes, including rentals. The CAPP+ Home Repairs program expands CAPP's vision by providing healthy homes for children with asthma through structural repairs to reduce pests and moisture, which contributes to mold and dust. The reduction of these environmental triggers is directly correlated with improved health outcomes for asthmatic patients.

Since its launch in 2018, CAPP+ has repaired more than 100 homes with an observed a 30% to 50% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children enrolled in the program. Following its successful pilot, this partnership has been sustained through CHOP's Healthier Together initiative, launched in 2019 to tackle social determinants of health as a path to giving every child a fair chance at a healthy future in a healthier home.

Healthy habits for kids and families

Since 2005, Boston Children's Hospital has promoted healthy eating and activity for families through the Healthy in the City Program, providing financial support and resources to 11 community health centers. Together, these health centers enroll more than 1,100 new children and families each year. Health centers offer nutrition education, opportunities for physical activity and connections to other local organizations, such as the YMCA of Greater Boston, Boston Centers for Youth & Families and Cooking Matters.

As part of the program, children and youth are assessed for their readiness to make behavioral changes to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, develop wellness goals, attend physical activity programs, and participate in a nutrition-related activity through a nutrition education class or cooking class. Case managers are on staff to facilitate these discussions and opportunities.

Data from the community health centers show a significant reduction in body mass index among those in the program. From 2020 to 2021, 61% of patients decreased or maintained their body mass index. Kids are also using screens less on weekends, reducing sugary beverage intake and increasing vegetable consumption. The program plans to continue adding opportunities within each health center, such as gardening, yoga and Zumba.

Volunteer efforts

Leaders at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) view the hospital as a deeply ingrained part of the community. That's why in 2019 they created the Community Impact Champions Network (CICN) to enable hospital staff to volunteer in community-based programs that support improved access to food, sustainability, environmental safety and beautification.

Under the hospital's Office of Community Affairs leadership, CICN has attracted about 350 CHLA team members from more than 100 departments. From June 2020 to October 2021, CICN helped provide 35,000 pounds of fresh produce to families in need through its partnership with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and 50,000 pounds of food through its other partners, including the support of a community garden on a local community college campus.

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