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Scheduled as part of South by South West (SXSW) 2020, “Disrupting Determinants” was originally envisioned as a panel discussion highlighting Philadelphia organizations working together to combat the social determinants of health in Philadelphia. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of being broadcast from the event in Austin, Texas, the program was featured virtually, presented by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), at Amplify@Home, a four-part series by Amplify Philly that launched in Fall 2020, featuring the convergence of music, art, business, and technology in Philadelphia.
The dynamic “Disrupting Determinants” panel moderated by Amanda Nielsen, CHOP’s Healthier Together Initiative program manager, included Megha Kulshreshtha from Food Connect, Osarugue Grace Osa-Edoh from Community Legal Services and Crystal Wortham from the Uplift Center for Grieving Children. Together the speakers offered a powerful discussion about the importance of working together to provide services and resources for our communities and the need to quickly innovate during multiple converging crises.
Much of the discussion focused how CHOP’s Healthier Together Initiative partners with many Philadelphia organizations to combat social determinants of health. Launched in 2019, Healthier Together helps us look beyond the walls of the hospital and Care Network and partner with community organizations to help the families who live in our communities live the healthiest lives possible. Food insecurity, housing insecurity, and trauma were exacerbated by the pandemic and coincide with the multiple systemic issues that came to the fore in 2020.
As part of Healthier Together, CHOP’s Healthy Weight Program typically screens families for food insecurity at every visit, and families deemed food insecure are given the opportunity to choose food for three days in person at CHOP’s Food Pharmacy. However, during the early months of the pandemic, in-person visits moved to telehealth visits, and the important opportunity to screen families for food insecurity wasn’t as easily available.
Understanding that food insecurity doesn’t stop when in-person visits cease, the Healthier Together program quickly partnered with Food Connect to bring meals to families’ homes through contactless delivery.
Food insecurity increased during the pandemic and created an even greater number of food-insecure families. The meal delivery option was welcomed by our families and also helped small businesses and farms find needed consumers for their goods and products. More than 4,162 fresh food boxes were delivered to 344 families over a 12-week period.
Philadelphia has been facing an eviction crisis for decades, and the pandemic compounded the issue when residents were asked to stay at home and many lost jobs due to the economic crisis. CHOP has partnered with Community Legal Services to help Philadelphia residents avoid eviction.
Addressing another focus of the Healthier Together Initiative, CHOP’s Growing Resilience in Teens (GRIT) project is a proactive trauma prevention intervention for buffering children against traumatic events to combat the mental health crisis in the West Philadelphia community. Our team works with the Uplift Center for Grieving Children, a program that offers peer support groups for children and teens for grief and loss. The Uplift at Home program offers resources and activities designed to bring calm in a time uncertainty.
Advancements in healthcare and technology help streamline medical care through personalization, integrated data, and better clinical care. This panel discussed the challenges and opportunities of collaboration between public health, social services, hospitals and technology companies during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared different points of the process on how they’re disrupting the social determinants of health and creating new opportunities to level the healthcare playing field.