By staff writer

March 2019

Although Philadelphia is already known to be a city of medical firsts — including the first medical school, first hospital and first medical library in the United States — its public and private healthcare entities continue creating new and innovative partnerships to fight health inequities and improve access to healthcare.

The Health of the City 2018 report from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health showed that although most key health indicators in Philadelphia continue to improve, disparities in key health outcomes persist, particularly for racial/ethnic minorities and those experiencing poverty.

“As we assess the areas that need us most, our focus areas have been north, west and southwest Philadelphia, and we’re spending a lot of time and resources on creating communities of health in those underserved neighborhoods,” said Jennifer Davis, senior vice president and executive director of the American Heart Association in Philadelphia told Invest:.

Throughout the years, the American Heart Association has established strong partnerships with faith-based organizations, schools and community centers in order to educate and better serve the community in areas ranging from heart health and diabetes care to healthy cooking and physical fitness.

In addition, organizations such as The Renfrew Center, a treatment center for eating disorders, have created solid connections with insurance companies and a full continuum of care in the Philadelphia area.

“Mental health coverage has been a major focus area for us,” said Samuel Menaged, founder and partner of The Renfrew Center. “As the pioneer in the field of eating disorders, one of our missions is to take responsibility for expanding public awareness and understanding about mental health.”

Today, the Renfrew Center Foundation advances eating-disorder education, prevention, research, advocacy and treatment, and works to bring about better access to treatment.

Philadelphia is home to the second-largest university population in the U.S., and institutions of higher education also play a significant role in the healthcare arena. For example, in December 2018, Drexel University’s College of Medicine was given a $1.5 million, three-year grant to address the opioid epidemic.

“As an academic health center, we reach at-risk individuals in the community for evaluation and then offer evidence-based treatment,” said Daniel Schidlow, dean and senior vice president for medical affairs at Drexel. “Our research and educational programs will help the college develop new models of care to help curb the epidemic.”

There’s still much work to be done. Philadelphia’s 2018-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) identified two priority areas that need urgent attention: Improving access to, and utilization of, primary care; and a more robust effort to address social and economic determinants of health issues. The Invest: team will continue covering these efforts and many others focused on bringing about better health care access to all Philadelphians.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:

The Renfrew Center: http://renfrewcenter.com/

Drexel University College of Medicine: https://drexel.edu/medicine/

American Heart Association in Philadelphia: https://www.heart.org/en/affiliates/pennsylvania/philadelphia