Reshuffling resources and tapping enthusiasm, Philly launches kids health initiative

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks with children before announcing the new health initiative.

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks with children before announcing the new health initiative. (Tom MacDonald/ WHYY)

Philadelphia is starting a new push to improve the health of impoverished children.  For now — it will rely on reshuffling existing resources to accomplish its objectives.

The program, “A Running Start, Health,” is tied in with the early education initiative to make sure children are healthy and ready to go to school.

“This plan focuses on a few key interventions that address the most important risks in children from birth to age 5,” said Mayor Jim Kenney Tuesday in announcing the initiative. “As we all know by now, those are the most important years developmentally for our kids.”

The goals include reducing sleep-related deaths; preventing exposure to dangerous lead; and decreasing emergency room visits by the year 2020.

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The effort has been going on for years,  but needed some focus — and a determined outlook, said Dr. Renee Turchi, medical director of the Center for Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

“While we’ve made strides,  we still have a lot to do,” she said. “At St. Christopher’s, we thrilled to be partnering with the city. I think, in true Philadelphia style, we need a real Rocky Balboa approach from the start.”

A can-do attitude will be the program’s best support, said Dr. Tom Farley, city health commissioner.

“This program doesn’t have new money attached to it,” he said. “It’s based upon the idea that we have a lot of resources going into children in the city … if we simply refocus those resources on the interventions and the outcomes that are most important, we can have a big impact.”

When people see results, Farley said, donations will likely expand the program to help even more underprivileged kids.

“Lifelong health begins with a healthy early childhood,” he said. “We know that not every child in Philadelphia gets an equal start, and, if we can help our disadvantaged children today, we will be preventing health disparities in adults tomorrow.”


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