Addressing barriers to pediatric care

This post was written by Sarah GiaQuinta, MD, MPH, VP, Community Health, to mark one year of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

When it comes to health, it has been said that a child's ZIP code is as important as his or her genetic code, and the data proves that Fort Wayne's children are not an exception. Across the city, we are seeing significant differences in the health of our children based on where they live. These differences in health status that are unfair and avoidable, are almost always related to the social determinants of health. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”  For children, this means that their health may be impacted by the condition of their homes, the safety of their neighborhoods, the quality of their childcare facilities or schools, or their families’ ability to access affordable, quality healthcare. 

Additionally, early experiences affect brain development and build the foundation for a child's future behavior, educational achievement and health. It is the combination of a child's genes and experiences that shape his or her brain, and between birth and age 5, the brain develops more than at any other time in life.  In other words, it is critical that we prioritize the health of our community’s youngest residents.

Unfortunately, across Fort Wayne, about 28% of children are living in poverty, and a deeper dive shows significant variation with poverty rates ranging between less than 15% for much of southwest and northwest Fort Wayne, to more than 60% in the southeast Fort Wayne's neighborhoods. Additionally, 5% of children in Allen County do not have health insurance, which makes it difficult for them to access critical care such as immunizations, developmental screenings and well child visits. 

Many of these same households also have limited access to healthy foods. Did you know that 14% of Allen County families don’t know where their next meal is coming from? Reliable transportation can be another significant factor for families seeking care for their children and families. For those families relying on public transportation, a trip to the doctor’s office may require several hours and multiple stops just to get them there. For families in surrounding counties, they may not even have access to a pediatrician in their area.

We know that our community’s children deserve better, and it is our mission to provide quality healthcare to all children and families across Fort Wayne, regardless of their ability to pay. Cue the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

Through our partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Indiana, Parkview Health has launched the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. This doctor’s office on wheels brings much-needed services to those families who either can’t afford care or are unable to get their child to a pediatric provider. By removing the barriers of affordability and transportation, many more families are now able to access life-saving vaccines, well child care and sick care for their children. We’re also working to connect these families with much-needed community resources to ensure access to healthy foods, quality childcare and safe housing.

Our children are this community's future. Yet, according to national trends and statistics, we are raising a generation that is destined to earn less money than their parents and live fewer years. Our city can do better, and Ronald McDonald Charities of Northeast Indiana and Parkview are committed to reversing this trend one child at a time.

Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” All children should have the same opportunity to thrive. We are so grateful to Ronald McDonald Charities and their commitment to building healthy children in Northeast Indiana.

 

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