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Healthy in Philadelphia Initiative

 by  Eileen M. Sullivan-Marx


A nurse and client at LIFE sharing the joys of botanical therapy.

The School of Nursing's 2003-2008 Strategic Plan, Building on Excellence: Positioning Ourselves for the Future, is driven by the critical issues in health care and the School's tripartite mission of education, research, and practice. Core values of our tripartite mission embrace concepts of community and partnership including envisioning and designing programs that are responsive to societal needs, operating within a global and multicultural context, and forming interdisciplinary and community partnerships to meet the needs of all constituents. To achieve our goals in this regard, the School of Nursing has launched a Healthy in Philadelphia (HIP) initiative designed to partner with the West Philadelphia community to meet the needs of society and to advance the translation of knowledge and evidence-based, culturally competent models of care in the areas of healthy lifestyles; transitions in health, illness, and end of life; and disparities in access to and provision of health care. 

The profession of nursing has a long history of developing successful community partnerships and is uniquely qualified to serve as a promising source of leadership for community-based health initiatives and services. The HIP initiative is built on the School's successes with community partners. In 1998, we established and currently operate the Living Independently For Elders (LIFE) Program, a Medicare risk-based program providing long-term care services for elders who prefer to remain living in their West Philadelphia homes. Through the LIFE Program, the School of Nursing established a significant partnership with the aged and the community of West Philadelphia to address health care disparities of the vulnerable, frail older adults living at home. The LIFE Program is located adjacent to Penn campus at two sites, 41st and Woodland Avenues, and 38th and Market St. As a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) model, LIFE incorporates a comprehensive range of health and social services on a 24-hour basis.  The LIFE staff team provides West Philadelphia elders with nursing and medical care, physical and occupational therapies, meals, nutrition counseling, social services, recreational therapy, and personal care.  In addition to the LIFE Program, the Penn Nursing Network, the academic practices of the School of Nursing, have conducted health education programs for seniors in community centers for 15 years in West Philadelphia through our Penn Nursing Consultation Service, a cohort of Penn nursing faculty and advanced practice nursing alumni. For nearly 20 years, we have been involved in health promotion activities at various elementary and middle schools in the Philadelphia community.

As an initial step in launching the Healthy in Philadelphia initiative, the School of Nursing has reinvigorated its relationship with Penn's Center for Community Partnerships, Penn's Community Relations office, and key partners in life science and arts and science disciplines at Penn. With these partners we plan to reach out to the West Philadelphia community to strengthen current relationships and initiate new alignments with key stakeholders in West Philadelphia. We acknowledge that this initiative will be a dynamic process emanating from community dialogue and interaction. The Healthy in Philadelphia (HIP) initiative is envisioned as a health community partnership between the School of Nursing and the West Philadelphia community that will unify and capitalize on the School's existing activities and strengths to improve health, address health care disparities and improve quality of care among residents of the West Philadelphia community.  We propose several focus areas that build on the School of Nursing's strengths and activities including: 1) health promotion and care for vulnerable groups, 2) healthy nutrition and obesity prevention, 3) healthy interpersonal and sexual relations, 4) violence and injury prevention, and 5) prevention of tobacco and other substance use.  These areas of focus are among the leading national health priorities identified in Healthy People 2010.  Each is a significant factor contributing to health disparities and excessive morbidity and mortality within the United States and is germane to health needs in the West Philadelphia community. The elimination of health disparities is one of the two overarching goals of the Healthy People 2010 initiative. As such, the proposed HIP health initiative is consistent with national, regional, and local health priorities. Further, these areas of focus represent strengths in faculty scholarship and practice at the School of Nursing including the academic practices of the School's Penn Nursing Network. With the School's current wealth of faculty expertise, it is well placed to partner with the West Philadelphia community while increasing the effectiveness of nursing as a force in community health.

Toward this end, we seek to increase our partnership with the West Philadelphia community to meet the following objectives: 

1) Collaborate with West Philadelphia residents, leaders, key stakeholders, and community agencies to identify community priorities within the scope of the HIP initiative.

2) Adapt and/or develop culturally sensitive target-specific health promotion programs to address community priorities.

3) Increase the strength and visibility of new and existing community partnerships between the West Philadelphia community and the School of Nursing.

4) Evaluate the effectiveness of HIP initiative in terms that inform the community and the School.

Our commitment to the HIP initiative is congruent with the School of Nursing's tripartite mission and strategic plan. Moreover, the HIP initiative is a major aspect of our education, research, and practice strategic goals: 1) to advance the quality and influence of our educational programs to prepare students to join a global community of scholars, from undergraduate through graduate and pre- and post-doctoral programs; 2) to expand our capacity in the discovery and translation of new knowledge to meet current and future health care needs through new collaborations and partnerships within and across disciplines and schools; and 3) to advance the science and shape the structure and quality of health care by systematically integrating education, research, and clinical care to meet current and future health care needs.

Dr. Eileen M. Sullivan-Marx is the Associate Dean for Practice & Community Affairs, School of Nursing



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 13, November 18, 2003