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Urban Health Initiative

American cities are havens of opportunity. They also contain deep pockets of poverty, which hits children particularly hard. San Francisco has approximately 6,000 homeless teens. The lowest-income neighborhoods in New York City, such as Mott Haven and Hunts Point in the South Bronx, have child poverty rates as high as 72%.

In the United States, more than one in five children live in poverty -- more than 15 million boys and girls. Many live in large urban areas and have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. In New York City, nearly 17,000 children are in the homeless shelter system. In 2010, child poverty in Chicago was reported as 31%, and San Francisco has documented approximately 6,000 cases of homeless teens each year.  While large cities often have a more extensive infrastructure of social services than exists in rural areas, realistic access to consistent, quality health care remains a problem for families caught in the nets of homelessness, unemployment and poverty.

Poverty affect children’s physical health as well as their mental and emotional development. It also makes it more difficult for them to get the care they need.

Children's Health Fund’s Urban Health Initiative includes its Children’s Health Projects in Chicago; DetroitNewarkWashington, DCMiami; Orlando; DallasAustinLos Angeles; the San Francisco PeninsulaPhoenix; and New York City. Patients of these 12 urban programs include homeless children and families; victims of domestic violence; children of the working poor; runaway and at-risk youth; and children of immigrants. In addition to primary health care needs, these children have higher than average rates of both medical and social problems, including asthma, obesity, developmental delays, ear infections, and tooth decay.

There are numerous and often-complex barriers to medical care. Access to health services in urban areas is further compromised by inadequate transportation services; a shortage of medical providers in poor communities; and linguistic and cultural differences. Poor families, especially those who are homeless, move frequently and often have trouble navigating the health and social service system. They often rely on hospital emergency rooms to treat acute illnesses and fail to receive routine care.

Through the Urban Health Initiative, Children's Health Fund is addressing these access issues by providing a “medical home” that delivers comprehensive medical care and support services where they are needed most: at homeless shelters, at schools, day care and community centers, and other areas where children, youth and families are known to congregate.

Through our Urban Health Initiative, Children's Health Fund community-based health centers and mobile health clinics provide the full range of primary care services—medical, dental, mental health, nutrition and support services—to poor children and families, regardless of their ability to pay. 

The Urban Health Initiative is supported in part by the Morgan Stanley Foundation.