Jul 12, 2016

Philadelphia: Brotherly Love, Culture of Health


11th Street Family Health Services offers art therapy, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and music therapy for all ages.

To hear the name—the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services—is not to fully comprehend the incredible wraparound support this center offers.

What was initially known as the 11th Street Center was begun in 1996 by the School of Nursing at MCP/Hahnemann University to serve an area of Philadelphia in need of support. By design, as the center embraced the community, the community was asked to embrace it in return: In 1998, a collaboration between the health center and local schools, churches, community groups and agencies was dubbed the Partnership for Community Based Care. Since then, 11th Street Center has gradually expanded in every sense. Late last year, it doubled in size, and it has shifted from health promotion and disease prevention to an integrated approach that redefines both health and care.

Overseeing the nurse-led effort to support medically underserved families who lived in the public housing of the 11th Street Corridor is Patricia Gerrity, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and associate dean for community programs at Drexel University’s College of Nursing & Health Professions and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow alumni.

In a video that provides a comprehensive look at the community and the center, though it was taped before the 2015 expansion, Gerrity explains what is meant by integrated: First, “It’s important that 11th Street Health Center is located right in the middle of this very active community. We try to take care of people in the context of their family and their community.”

Equally important: “We take a holistic approach….For instance, you come in to see the nurse practitioner, you might also see a therapist.” Or a health educator, a nutritionist, or social worker. Or neighborhood residents might end up in a cooking classes, the fitness center, or in physical therapy.

In a Drexel University story following the center’s expansion to 34,000 square feet, Gerrity said, “This center is a testament to what can happen when a community and a university work together. More space opens the potential for developing new programming and services in response to the community’s evolving needs.”

This is a safe haven in the community, is how one primary care coordinator puts it. “Our benefit: It’s one-stop shopping. Our patients live in trauma, and an area of trauma.”

Because of that, and because the 11th Street center was built hand in hand with the community, and its belief that true health means far more than treating illness, it was chosen as one of six organizations nationally to receive funds to innovate “trauma-informed care,” which builds on therapies and behavioral health practices it has had in place for years. That effort is part of a multi-site project  led by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In the words of one patient Drexel cites in praising the community-based center: “The Center takes the nervousness out of asking questions you might not otherwise feel comfortable asking, because it’s easy to open up and talk to the nurses and midwives here. It’s just a magical place.”