Philadelphia is like nowhere else in the world. The birthplace of American democracy, today the City of Brotherly Love is home to some of the country’s best museums, universities, stores, sports teams, restaurants, and the list goes on. The City hosted Pope Francis in 2015 and the Democratic National Convention in 2016, Philadelphia’s population grew for the eighth year in a row, new public spaces have opened, and Philadelphia’s unemployment rate fell in 2014 to 7.8 percent. Despite these attributes and many others, it remains important not to forget that many in our city continue to be in significant need.
Twenty-six percent of Philadelphians live in poverty—the highest among the 10 most populous cities in the United States, (a family of four is considered in poverty if their cash income is approximately $24,000). Additionally, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation assessment ranks Philadelphia County last in overall health outcomes among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Seeing this need, Penn Medicine staff and students work year-round to support the communities in which Penn Medicine calls home. Here, we review a few of the programs that change the lives of our patients, neighbors, and shape our communities for years to come.
These efforts transform patient care at many stages of life, including during routine examinations, outpatient visits and emergency department visits (of which there were 295,736 last year in our hospitals), but arguably more significant is how Penn Medicine physicians, nurses, students, and other staff serve outside their work spaces to improve the health and safety of area residents.
Indeed, an individual’s health is influenced far more by social and economic factors, health behaviors, and environment than by their medical care. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s widely cited County Health Rankings and Roadmaps project suggests that four factors influence public health: behaviors (such as whether an individual smokes or exercises), social and economic factors (like whether they are employed in a good job), and physical environment (such as having clean water and air). The team’s model estimates that health outcomes are significantly more influenced by outside factors (80 percent) than by clinical care (20 percent).
Fortunately, Penn Medicine’s reach extends beyond its facilities to improve health where the opportunity to do good is most significant. Last year, Penn Medicine employees supported nonprofits throughout the region and beyond by contributing $900,000 of the more than $1.6 million raised by Penn’s annual Penn’s Way fundraising campaign.
In addition to fundraising, many of these individuals regularly share their time and talents in the community. Just this past year alone, the Penn Medicine CAREs grant program funded 50 projects in which Penn Medicine staff devote time and energy to promote important community initiatives.
The Penn Medicine CAREs Grant program was established to offer monetary support to individuals and programs in the form of grants — awarded quarterly — that can be used for the purchase of supplies and other resources needed to perform important community work. Some projects in the past year included providing SAT prep, writing, tutoring sessions and college tours for 13-16 year olds in West Philadelphia; supporting the local chapter of a national nonprofit that pairs 8-13 year old girls with mentors that assist in training for a 5K, as well as promote anti-bullying, self-esteem, and healthy living; funding an area food cupboard for underprivileged area residents; expanding dermatology services in a clinic for immigrants in South Philadelphia; and providing free breast cancer screening and diagnostic services to uninsured women.
For more information on some of Penn Medicine’s community efforts, check out the latest edition of its community benefit and Facts and Figures brochures.
As our city’s population grows, let’s challenge ourselves to extend “Brotherly Love” a little further and grow in ways that improve our communities and the lives of those who live here.