By Mary Beth Schweigert
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s dedication to improving community health extends well beyond the walls of its hospitals, into schools, corner stores and even rural fire halls.
Throughout its 125-year history, LG Health has focused on meeting the most pressing health needs of our community. This month, the American Hospital Association recognized LG Health’s commitment to improving community health with the 2018 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service.
The award, given to one health system annually, recognizes LG Health’s efforts to identify the community’s most pressing health needs, then work with community partners to create initiatives in response to those needs.
Alice Yoder, executive director of Community Health, said LG Health focuses not only on providing high-quality medical care but also on addressing non-medical factors that are social determinants of health such as poverty, education, and access to healthy food.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of individual and community health is related to non-medical factors,” she said. “These include education, economic stability, housing, social and community context, access to healthy food and transportation.”
LG Health works closely with dozens of community partners to develop programs that serve people of all ages and backgrounds. These diverse programs, many of which are featured in Penn Medicine’s 2018 annual community benefit report, Simply Because, aim to achieve a measurable impact on the community by preventing health problems before they begin.
Here’s a closer look at some of the numbers behind the impact of LG Health’s community programs.
2,600 primary-care visits for children in Lancaster schools
For more than 25 years, LG Health has partnered with the School District of Lancaster to offer school-based health centers, which give students access to medical care in a convenient location. In the 2017-2018 school year, four clinics in Lancaster city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods provided nearly 2,600 visits.
LG Health’s on-site clinics offer services that include physicals, immunizations, immediate medical attention and general health education.
“Students may not have the ability to see a primary-care provider due to scheduling conflicts, access barriers, transportation or insurance issues,” said Jessica Klinkner, manager of Community Health. “Our school-based clinics provide access to students where and when they need it, which helps them stay in school and their parents stay at work.”
The clinical staff also works with the school district and community organizations to fill children’s social needs, such as clothing and transportation, and ensure access to healthy food and safe places to be physically active.
Healthier food options at 25 corner stores and bodegas
In Lancaster County, 67 percent of adults, 34 percent of teens and 30 percent of children are overweight or obese. Diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, are increasingly common. Making health food more accessible can have a significant impact, particularly in low-income communities.
LG Health’s efforts to make healthy food more readily available include school and community gardens and hands-on healthy cooking classes for families. The health system also works with food pantries and not-for-profit organizations to enhance the nutrition of meals served to people in need.
Health Promotion Specialist Serena Bolinger said LG Health’s Healthy Corner Stores initiative has increased healthy food offerings available on the shelves at 25 corner stores and bodegas in Lancaster city.
“All of these efforts are designed to help make the healthy choice the easy choice,” she said. “We know that making healthy food more conveniently available will increase the chances that people will make healthier choices.”
Free immunizations for 74,312 children
Lancaster County includes urban neighborhoods and small towns, as well as more rural areas. LG Health’s efforts to prevent future health problems target all members of the county’s diverse population.
ChildProtect, a free immunization outreach program, was established in 1991 as an emergency response to a German measles outbreak in the Amish community. LG Health partnered with Amish bishops and local fire companies to quickly vaccinate 5,000 Amish children in remote areas of the county.
Nearly 30 years later, the program provides free immunizations to children from birth to age 18 at fire halls throughout the county. To date, ChildProtect has provided 167,063 immunizations to 74,312 children from low-income or uninsured families, with a particular focus on the Amish.
“LG Health recognizes that a variety of factors affect the health of individuals, families and communities,” Yoder said. “Identifying and addressing these barriers to care is imperative to achieving successful health outcomes.”
Even more of LG Health’s community initiatives are featured along with programs across the region in the 2019 edition of Penn Medicine’s community benefit report, Simply Because.