After rushing mobile medical clinics to the Gulf to provide crisis relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Children’s Health Fund stayed to provide essential health care long after the initial recovery efforts. The New Orleans Children's Health Project (NOCHP) supports the community in building for the future by bringing compassionate, comprehensive health care to approximately 1,000 of the area’s most vulnerable children each year, regardless of their ability to pay. “We are treating the sickest of the sick,” says Dr. John Carlson, a physician at the program. We target the kids with multiple health challenges and stick with them over time to ensure they stay healthy.”
In the parishes the New Orleans program serves—Orleans and Jefferson—a lack of insurance, a lack of public transportation, and an acute shortage of doctors and other health care professionals compound the difficulties many low-income children face in trying to obtain quality health care. These challenges, which existed even before Hurricane Katrina, increased in the aftermath as an influx of immigrants who came to rebuild the city brought their families too.
The New Orleans program targets high need children (ages 0-18) at various community sites in Jefferson and Orleans parishes who are unlikely to access routine health care and therefore, shoulder the burden of undiagnosed or unmanaged chronic conditions that impede their ability to perform well in school.
A VULNERABLE COMMUNITY
Because children in New Orleans suffer from asthma at rates that are double and triple the national average, the program collaborates with schools and school districts to find and treat students with uncontrolled asthma symptoms. Caring for New Orleans’ neediest young people also means providing services in Spanish, since a growing number of the city’s low-income residents come from Spanish-speaking households. The New Orleans program maintains a Spanish-language phone line and depends on its bilingual case manager, Carlos Naranjo, who is also a certified medical translator, to anchor it services for this growing population.
A NEW INITIATIVE
The Children’s Health Fund has identified eight proven health barriers to learning: hearing loss, vision impairment, dental pain, uncontrolled asthma, hunger, severe social stress, and mental health/behavioral health conditions. The heart of this effort is a new Health Barriers to Learning Screening Form, to identify, track and manage the above-mentioned conditions. Carlos Naranjo, the case manager for the program, uses the form to ensure that each condition is screened for. If a health problem is identified, children will be connected to NOCHP physicians and other partners.