The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group, has awarded a three-year, $3.4 million grant to Children’s National Hospital to improve access to health care for school-aged children in Washington, D.C.’s most under-resourced communities. The support is part of the United Health Foundation’s ongoing commitment to build healthier communities and advance health equity.
The grant enables a unique program – bringing together a team of school nurses in D.C. Public Schools, community health workers and mobile medical services. Wards 7 and 8 face some of the largest health inequities in Washington, D.C., with high rates of child poverty, asthma, obesity and more.
“Children’s National has long worked to make sure every child in our region has access to high-quality care,” said Kurt Newman, M.D., president and CEO of Children’s National. “This new grant from the United Health Foundation will help us create another way to connect our pediatric experts with children and families who are not currently being served by health care providers. We are committed to helping children lead healthier lives which, in turn, makes them more likely to succeed in school and lead healthier lives as adults.”
School nurses employed by Children’s School Services will work with community health workers to connect children and families to mobile health services, Children’s National primary care locations and federally qualified health centers. Health records, immunization records and attendance data will be accessible through data sharing. As a result of the effort, children will receive well-child visits, including vaccinations and vision, hearing, behavioral health and developmental screenings. Additionally, via telemedicine, community health workers can link children to specialists to address behavioral health, asthma and other pressing health needs.
“Reaching school-aged children living in under-resourced communities to provide important routine health care can be challenging, especially amid a pandemic,” said Dr. Margaret-Mary Wilson, associate chief medical officer for UnitedHealth Group. “We are so pleased to be working with Children’s National on this innovative and comprehensive program to identify and close gaps in care — especially for those who have unaddressed needs.”
The effort aims to reduce school absenteeism among chronically absent students by connecting families to health supports and social services. It will also focus on increasing the number of children who are up to date on vaccinations, with a goal of providing 6,000 vaccinations over three years. Additionally, those who screen positive for mental or behavioral health issues will be referred to mental health specialists. The program is under the leadership of Hope Rhodes, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of THEARC, and one of the leaders of the Goldberg Center, and Danielle Dooley, M.D., M.Phil., medical director, Community Affairs and Population Health of the Child Health Advocacy Institute.
The grant will help address challenges identified in the Foundation’s recently released America’s Health Rankings 2021 Health of Women and Children Report. Some of the key findings of the report were:
- Anxiety among children ages 3-17 rose 21% nationally between 2017-2018 and 2019-2020, from 7.5% to 9.1%.
- Only 1 in 3 (34.3%) U.S. fourth grade public school students scored proficient or above on the national reading assessment. Later in life, there is a strong connection between education attainment and health, with those without a high school education facing the greatest social, economic and health challenges. National reading assessments are an important marker in educational development.
- The prevalence of asthma among children in D.C. is 10%, higher than the national average of 7.5%.
- On-time childhood vaccinations in D.C. are 75.3%, slightly lower than the national average of 75.8%.
The grant is one of the many ways the United Health Foundation continues to support efforts to build healthier communities and advance health equity. In September, UnitedHealth Group, including the United Health Foundation and UnitedHealthcare, announced a donation of $4.5 million to seven nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma to help increase health care, improve health outcomes and support communities across the state. And in July, the United Health Foundation established a $3.3 million grant partnership with the North Olympic Healthcare Network in Washington state to improve behavioral health for children and adults in the Port Angeles area. To learn more about UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to health equity, please visit the company’s sustainability website at sustainability.uhg.com.