Called DC’s “forgotten river,” the Anacostia flows from Maryland’s Prince George County into the Potomac basin, and it borders Washington, D.C.’s most poverty-stricken neighborhood. More than 20 years ago, Children’s Health Fund established a program here, and today it provides medical and dental care as part of a thriving and robust fixed-site pediatric health center dedicated to improving the health of the area’s children.
THE IMPACT OF POVERTY
Isolated from the economic, educational, cultural and medical infrastructure of the nation’s capital across the river, the children and youth of Anacostia experience a high degree of socioeconomic and environmental risk factors that often give rise to developmental delays and long-term health problems. These factors include high incidences of infant mortality, infant morbidity, teenage pregnancy, low birth weights, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol and child abuse and neglect.
The mobile clinic provides comprehensive primary care at sites situated near public housing that are within walking distance of schools. Additionally, to address the increasingly unmet dental needs of its patients, the program provides full dental services via a mobile dental unit.
A FAMILY-CENTERED APPROACH
Because the families in the community have so many needs, the health care team provides more than typical primary care. “Here at the clinic, we connect patients from our mobile clinics with case workers, support groups, nutrition and fitness opportunities, and health education,” says Dr. Marcee White, who was just beginning her residency with a rotation on the mobile clinic when Katrina struck. Seeing the mobile team pack up and head to New Orleans to respond to the disaster, she remembers thinking, “These are the kind of people I want to work with.”