A Collaboration of Caring
PCHE executive director Jack Ludmir, MD, and his wife, Blima, who volunteers at Jefferson’s Latina Women’s Clinic, visit with one of their newest patients.
Jefferson leads coalition to improve lives in Philadelphia’s communities
Less than six miles separates Society Hill from the Fairhill section of Philadelphia, but there is a stark difference in lifestyle—and life expectancy— between the residents of ZIP codes 19106 and 19133.
In Philadelphia, where you live can determine how long you live. While the city boasts areas of great wealth, it is also home to regions of extreme poverty, which has an overall adverse effect on the health and longevity of residents; in fact, life expectancy can vary by 10 to 20 years from one neighborhood to the next. In a bold, new initiative, Jefferson is helping to establish partnerships across the city aimed at better serving Philadelphia communities. This initiative is the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity (PCHE).
“There is deep poverty in Philadelphia, and the challenges are similar to the ones I witnessed in my work in the developing world,” says Jack Ludmir, MD, Jefferson’s associate provost for Community and Global Initiatives, executive director of PCHE, and co-founder of Puentes de Salud (“Bridges of Health”), a volunteer-run health clinic in South Philadelphia that treats undocumented and uninsured immigrants. “But this is the start of a movement, and I’m thrilled we have this opportunity.”
Philadelphia is the poorest city in the United States—25.7 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. It has the highest obesity, smoking, HIV, low birth-weight babies, and maternal mortality rates of any of the country’s 10 major cities. In addition, more than 20 percent of the population— approximately 320,000 people—do not have access to a sufficient quantity of inexpensive, nutritious food.
Joseph Hill, Jefferson’s chief diversity officer and associate executive director of the Collaborative, likens the conditions to those of an underdeveloped country. “When I was in South Africa, in Soweto, Johannesburg, I looked at the HIV and AIDS and infant mortality rates. When I look at the data in Philadelphia, it is similar,” Hill says. To make matters worse, affordable healthcare is lacking in the lower socioeconomic areas of the city.
“The goal of PCHE is to leverage health as a catalyst for success to help every family reach their full potential,” Ludmir says. Using a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach, the Collaborative will employ the Collective Model Impact, a method of tackling deeply entrenched and complex social problems through an alliance of government, business, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and citizens. The tactic, designed to achieve significant and lasting change, is based on the premise that no single policy, program, or entity can solve society’s increasingly complicated problems; to find comprehensive solutions and enact change, all members of society must work together.
To that end, PCHE will bring together a multitude of entities throughout the city to mobilize resources and address the challenges posed by poverty. Ludmir and Hill are in talks with many nonprofits, as well as religious organizations, government, and educational groups. However, the most important group in the equation, Ludmir points out, is people in the community.
“There are three key points to remember: We must keep to our principles, we must stay humble, and we must remember to listen to the community,” Ludmir says.
“We need to build trust in the communities and hear from the people as to what they need, not what we think they need. If we don’t listen to them, we will fail,” Hill says, adding, “We can’t have an ivory tower mentality and expect to succeed. Similar initiatives throughout the country have failed over the years because they were designed from the top down.”
“This initiative is from the ground up, not top down. This is not a pyramid with leaders up here,” Ludmir says raising his hand above his head. “It should be more of a circular model with the community at the center. We can’t come in with an agenda because we don’t have all the answers.”
One of the most important pieces to putting together this complex puzzle is inviting other large healthcare, government, and community entities in the city to join the effort.
“This does not belong to Jefferson—it belongs to Philadelphia. As a major player in the city, we can be the backbone; we have the responsibility to do this for the residents. But we are inviting other major players to join us,” Hill says.
Jefferson added early support to the Collaborative by making it a beneficiary of a portion of its 2017 Gala proceeds in November.
“Jefferson is here to help make a difference for Philadelphia,” says Ludmir. “This is the start of an important movement.”
For more information on the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity and how to become involved, contact Erin Morton, associate director of development, Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity, at email@example.com or 215-955-9418.