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DHS Secretary Commends Partnership to Improve Health Outcomes in North Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined Project HOME, Independence Blue Cross, and AmeriHealth Caritas to announce the launch of Keystone Connection to Wellness, which will work to address health disparities and social determinants of health experienced by residents of North MedicalnPhiladelphia.

“Our partners in the HEZ are doing incredible, necessary work to help work against the health disparities residents of North Philadelphia face every day, but we need to be able to scale and grow these efforts so more people can see a positive change and better health outcomes,” said Sec. Miller. “Project HOME’s partnership with Independence Blue Cross and AmeriHealth Caritas will make growing this work possible, and I am incredibly grateful that our Medicaid managed care organizations are investing in organizations like Project HOME to maximize our ability to make a positive change in the lives of people we serve.”

Project HOME is currently a partner in the Wolf Administration’s North Philadelphia’s Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ) initiative, which supports community health workers to address health disparities in North Philadelphia.

Keystone Connection to Wellness will allow Project HOME to grow its work to address social determinants of health through financial and operations support from Independence Blue Cross and AmeriHealth Caritas. A community advisory board will bring together local stakeholders to inform services and programs offered to address poverty, health outcomes, and life circumstances that influence these like food access, housing, access to behavioral health care, and employment, among others. Project HOME expects to serve approximately 1,250 people in Keystone Connection to Wellness’ first year.

In February 2019, the Wolf Administration awarded five grantees $3 million to support projects that would use community health workers to promote better health outcomes in the HEZ. This funding created innovative projects that will 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. In December 2019, the Wolf Administration announcedOpens In A New Window a one-year extension of this work to continue progress made in the projects’ first year. This funding will help Project HOME grow and build upon its work of addressing social determinants of health and promoting health equity and improved health outcomes in the North Philadelphia.

The HEZ is made up of the 19120-26, 19130, 19132-34, 19138, 19140-41, and 19144 ZIP codes in North Philadelphia, which run from the beginning of Broad Street through City Hall. It includes nearly 320,000 Medicaid recipients – nearly 13 percent of Pennsylvania’s total Medicaid population. Beneficiaries in zip codes around this corridor experience multiple health conditions and significant socio-economic barriers that result in high medical costs and utilization and chronic poor health. Thirty-one percent of residents living 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.

The projects include:

  • Education Plus Health: improving child and adolescent health outcomes through the School-Based Health Center Community Health Worker project, which integrates community health workers into each school-based health center team to screen students and identify concerns related to asthma, diabetes, mental health, substance use, food insecurity and healthy weight, and multi-generational health needs. Education Plus Health community health workers have helped address and improve student health outcomes.
  • Bebashi- Transition to Hope: mitigating the symptoms of multigenerational poverty by addressing food insecurity through physically expanding Second Helping, an emergency food pantry, establishing food pantries in schools, and working to increase access to quality health care and assistance programs through one-to-one resource navigation with direct linkages and referrals for HEZ residents. Bebashi has served 3,600 people through their food pantry.
  • Project HOME: addressing diabetes and managing growing health care spending through the Healthy Communities Program, which trains peer community health workers to recruit participants from the HEZ with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The initiative uses an evidence-based healthy lifestyle program focusing on nutrition, physical activity, healthy food access, and motivational supports and will connect participants to integrated health and wellness resources.
  • Health Federation of Philadelphia: strengthening programs at organizations throughout the HEZ by training community health workers and peer support workers to build sustainable capacity and promote organizational development. They are focusing on addressing diabetes and prediabetes through the implementation of a diabetes prevention program, while also addressing behavioral and mental health and substance use disorders. In addition, they are implementing a cloud-based platform for comprehensive social service referrals.
  • New Kensington Community Development Corporation: addressing social determinants of health by hiring community health workers who are residents of the HEZ and utilizing trauma-informed training to assist as they screen clients and connect them to resources for health care, food resources, credit and budget counseling, and other social service resources.

Since the creation of the HEZ in 2016, DHS and grantees have sought to improve social indicators of health for residents of North Philadelphia and are making progress on this work. DHS has previously funded trauma-informed practices among teachers, staff, parents, and community members and has increased funding for lead remediation projects in schools within the HEZ. In October DHS announcedOpens In A New Window $4.3 million in funding for additional services, including support for SNAP 50/50 programs aimed at moving people out of poverty, home visiting services, and services related to eviction prevention and affordable housing.