A new health center in Frankford aims to alleviate a ‘primary care desert’

Residents in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood say the area has become a primary care desert, and lacks options for healthy foods.

Frankford Transportation Center. (Michaela Winberg/Billy Penn)

Frankford Transportation Center. (Michaela Winberg/Billy Penn)

A new city health center is coming to Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood, an area that residents and community leaders say has become a primary care desert.

At the site of the former Holiday Thriftway, city officials said the new health center will be strategically located directly across from the Frankford Transportation Center in order to maximize access to care for people who need it most.

“Our patients tend to go to the centers closest to where they are,” said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “These are centers that are desperately needed to fill the void in affordable, high-quality health care in this part of the city.”

The health care facility will offer pediatric and adult primary care, pharmacy services, and laboratory testing. A second center planned for Northeast Philadelphia is still being finalized.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Currently, the closest city health center is in Rhawnhurst, where there is a wait time of seven to 12 months for scheduled appointments.

“We know that lack of access to health care can mean the difference between controlling chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, and developing kidney failure or a heart attack or a stroke,” Bettigole said.

In addition to a lower supply of primary care providers, Frankford and other neighborhoods in Northeast Philadelphia also suffer from higher uninsured rates, according to a city report – factors that perpetuate health disparities, experts said. 

The new health care facility is part of a larger development project slated for Frankford, one that will also include a new supermarket and 120 affordable housing units.

“It’s no secret that Frankford is a community that suffers from long term disinvestment and that a project of this scale is long overdue,” said Kim Washington, executive director of the Frankford Community Development Corporation. 

Since the Holiday Thriftway closed in 2016, Washington said options for nutritious and healthy foods have been limited. People have had to travel to other neighborhoods to do the bulk of their grocery shopping.

“We have a few small mom and pop produce stores, but definitely not enough to fill the need,” Washington said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Community leaders, in partnership with city and state leaders, have raised $6 million so far for the project, which is currently in the early design planning stage.

Officials said they hope to break ground next summer for construction, and officially open the new center sometime in 2025.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal