It was in May 2016 that the bright and airy South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center opened in the neighborhood. The 96,000-square-foot building combines:

  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Primary Care Center,
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health Community Health Center,
  • Free Library of Philadelphia–South Philadelphia Library,
  • DiSilvestro Playground and Recreation Center.

“It’s a first of its kind,” says Peter Grollman, senior vice president of public affairs, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who led talks between CHOP and the city. “I haven’t seen a project where you have the trifecta of health care, literacy and wellness with a city and hospital that have come together as partners.”

Now, the CHOP clinic sees nearly 35,000 visits per year and each partner in the building has seen an uptick in visits compared with those of its previous location, says Steve Wilmot, senior director of practice management services at CHOP, who manages services at the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center.

More importantly, the space has allowed for cross-collaboration among units, which includes monthly meetings of the leaders of the four entities to create community wellness initiatives.

For example, each patient in the CHOP site is given a library card to encourage patients and their families to visit the library on the first floor.

And the center’s Reach Out and Read program provides a new book to well-visit patients younger than five in their preferred language when visiting the pediatric center. Not only does this address the issue of literacy, but how a child and guardian interact with the book allows providers to better evaluate literacy levels of patients and families, says Wilmot.

The success of cross-collaboration has led to a $175,000 CHOP grant from the Barra Foundation to hire a preventive health care navigator to focus on adolescent health services, sexual health and youth community engagement and wellness. The two-year grant was awarded so that the employee will work with all entities in the building to raise adolescent health education awareness, says Wilmot.

“We’re always looking for a thread that can tie us all together,” says Wilmot. “We try to do everything we can to reduce barriers and what better way to reduce barriers than by putting us under one roof.”