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Streets of North Philadelphia - stock photo (Getty Images)
Streets of North Philadelphia - stock photo (Getty Images)

A new community health program in North Philadelphia

The “Keystone Connection to Wellness”, a collaboration between Independence Blue Cross, Project HOME and AmeriHealth Caritas, will address some of the biggest…

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Independence Blue Cross, Project HOME and AmeriHealth Caritas are joining forces to launch an initiative to help North Philadelphia residents. 

The new “Keystone Connection to Wellness” will address some of the biggest health needs of the community, particularly, the significant health disparities in life expectancy and infant mortality experienced by North Philadelphia residents. 

The targeted areas of the program will be the 19121 and 19132 ZIP codes.

“This partnership with Independence and AmeriHealth Caritas allows us to reach more people and impact so many lives,” Project HOME President and Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion, said in a press release. 

According to Center on Society and Health, the life expectancy for residents of the targeted ZIP codes are 69 years old and 68 years old, respectively. The life expectancy for the city is about 75.5 years of age, while for the nation it’s about 79 years of age. 

In addition, Philadelphia has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States, according to a report by the PEW Charitable Trusts. For the targeted ZIP codes, the infant mortality rate is 13.1 deaths per 1,000. This is 56% greater than the city as a whole, and 126% above the national rate. 

“There are too many people and communities that face significant, and often crippling, health disparities because of gaps in access to the social determinants of health, like jobs, affordable housing, and nutritious food, and support networks” AmeriHealth Caritas Chairman and CEO Paul A. Tufano, said in a press release. 

“By building strong coalitions between business and community organizations to bridge those gaps, as we’re doing with Project HOME, we can help our most vulnerable citizens find pathways to prosperity and independence,” he added.

The initiative will be launched with the recognition that the health needs of economically distressed neighborhoods have to be met beyond just the doctor’s office. It will aim to create an opportunity to connect Project HOME patients with resources beyond their immediate medical needs.

To do this, Project HOME will work with other social service and health organizations to form a robust association of services to address social determinants of health. 

“We cannot tackle the difficult task of improving the health of people in our region without a team effort,” Daniel J. Hilferty, Independence Blue Cross CEO, said in a press release. 

“By engaging with the community and providing information and access to much-needed services, we believe that this initiative can address health issues before they become dire,” he added. 

The “Keystone Connection to Wellness” program will serve as hubs for three North Philadelphia Project HOME locations: the Stephen Klein Wellness Center, Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, and the Helen Brown Community Center. However, outreach could extend to libraries and other points of contact.

The initiative will rely on the input of the community advisory board to help find the most appropriate ways to disrupt the connection between poverty and these health disparities. It will also aim to expand access to services, such as affordable childcare, food security, transportation, housing, behavioral health services and employment opportunities. 

Approximately 1,250 North Philadelphians could be positively impacted by the initiative during the first year after its launch. The initiative will track and report on the progress of a pilot group of residents, and will then be turned into a more defined project plan.

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