Standing in front of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN recently, I was reflecting on the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And in looking around me, at the diverse and building crowd that was gathering to bear witness to the anniversary of his tragic death at that same spot some 50 years ago, Dr. King’s prophetic words seemed to echo from the balcony, “We may have all come on different ships” he once said, “…but we’re in the same boat now.”
Over the past couple weeks, I was fortunate to visit Children’s Health Fund programs in Memphis, Houston and Chicago and each stop was a reminder of the exceptional programming that underpins our position as the largest provider of mobile based primary care for vulnerable children in the USA. At Children’s Health Fund, the boat which Dr. King spoke of is literally a life raft to children who, were it not for our programs going the extra mile, would simply not be getting the high-quality primary and specialty care they need.
Children’s Health Fund’s Memphis program is a partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the program focuses on providing health care services to children and families in rural West Tennessee. Children and their families in those areas are often faced with many barriers to accessing health care, including a lack of transportation and a limited knowledge of available resources. Bringing our mobile clinic to schools and community gathering spots ensures we go where children are, and not wait for them to come to us. In this way, we are able to bring children into the system for screening, diagnosing, treating and managing any illnesses they might present. The exceptional care that children are receiving is being recognized beyond the health community and the program is being supported by local country government leaders as a model of service to rural families.
From Memphis, I went south to Houston to work with our partner Texas Children’s Hospital and to host Robin Paul (the mother of NBA Star and Houston Rocket Chris Paul) and pay a visit to the Hurricane Harvey Resiliency & Recovery Program. Robin’s involvement with Children’s Health Fund first started when Chris was playing for the LA Clippers and she spearheaded a grant to our LA program; now, with Chris playing for the Rockets, she was eager to learn more about what CHF is doing in Houston. And learn we did!
While flood waters have receded, Hurricane Harvey is having long-lasting effects on the Houston community. The Children’s Health Fund Program in Houston is dedicated to serving the needs of the many children and families adversely affected by the storm and its aftermath. The Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children’s Hospital is one of the only health service agencies within this region of Texas with significant child trauma and bereavement expertise. The program is working with traumatized and/or bereaved young people between the ages of 7 and 17 and providing ongoing evidence-based treatment. The key to success in Houston, according to the team there, is to build back better and not just get kids to where they were before Harvey, but be able to measure and track improved mental health outcomes and impact.
With those amazing visits still swirling in my mind, I then went to Chicago to participate in the official kick-off of Red Nose Day 2018! With partners Comic Relief and Walgreens, Children’s Health Fund’s Chicago Mobile Clinic and medical team adorned bright red noses and showcased real and tangible examples of how funding from Red Nose Day helps provide much needed health care for kids in Chicago.
Children’s Health Fund’s Chicago program is a partnership with The University of Chicago Medicine and Comer Children’s Hospital and provides much needed health services to children living in medically underserved neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides. The program brings students into compliance with basic health requirements by performing school physicals, sports physicals, immunizations and more. Our teams use these initial visits to make children and families aware of the program’s array of services and the extended reach of the mobile services again goes the extra mile and brings health care to where kids are.
These past couple weeks have been inspiring and humbling – the work being done in Memphis, Houston and Chicago is further testament to what can happen when we think global but act local. Three Children’s Health Fund programs, all uniquely designed for the specific needs of kids living in those communities – in many ways, they are different ships sailing in different waters. But not unlike Dr. King’s observation and my reflections stranding at the base of that balcony, these disparate ships are brought together by a strong and common mission. That mission states loud and clear that all children deserve access to high quality health services; at the end of the day, indeed, we are all in the same boat.