Here’s how Philadelphia communities are getting healthier

Philly has some interesting health challenges. However, with the recent decline in childhood obesity rates there is promise for improvement. That's why the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation convened in Philly for a two-day delegation of business leaders, experts and practitioners in the field of public health. On the first day, GSK hosted the delegation at our Navy Yard facility to better understand the critical connection between health and communities. 

At the event, we announced a $5 million, three-year charitable grant program, called the GSK IMPACT Grant for Philadelphia. This grant is designed to improve the health of disadvantaged youth in Philadelphia.

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On the second day, my colleague and I (pictured on the right of the first picture) joined the delegation at the Municipal Services Building to hear about the innovative work that is happening to overcome health challenges facing Philadelphians.

Philadelphia public health officials, Dr. Donald Schwarz and Dr. Giridhar Mallya, introduced the delegation to Get Healthy Philly, a ground-breaking public health initiative bringing together government agencies, community-based organizations, academia and the private sector to address health challenges in Philadelphia.

Dr. Schwarz and Dr. Mallya highlighted many Get Healthy Philly programs and efforts that are helping to move the needle. For example, fryers were removed from school kitchens, candy bars were eliminated from fundraisers, 170 school wellness councils were formed, and area hospitals are promoting breastfeeding.

Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The work continues with concepts such as a possible bike share program primarily serving low-income neighborhoods.

After the discussion, participants boarded the Drexel University bus for a neighborhood tour of Mantua, Powelton Village, and West Philadelphia to observe the University’s community-based programs in action. We saw a great example of urban gardening as well a school parking lot that is being turned into an attractive school yard for recess.

Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Drexel’s Dr. Lucy Kerman, Vice Provost, University and Community Partnerships, talked about how harnessing academic expertise can be an important part of the solution for tackling urban challenges to health.

Next stop: Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, which will soon open in West Philadelphia. Here in the Center’s brand new kitchen, the program will engage Drexel culinary students and local community residents to make traditional meals healthier through the use of locally-sourced foods from the community gardens. Through intergenerational food preparation coupled with nutrition workshops, and the engagement of local youth, the program promises to champion healthy eating in this diverse community. GSK is supporting one of the Center’s community food programs through a charitable grant to celebrate local food traditions. 

In Philadelphia’s low-income neighborhoods a nonprofit is making a huge difference. The Food Trust works with corner grocery stores to introduce and promote fresh foods and healthier cooking options to local families. I was astounded to see this beautiful display of fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-sodium products in this impoverished North Philadelphia neighborhood.

We got back on the bus and headed to Progress Plaza on North Broad Street. The Food Trust works with community leaders, government officials, and industry representatives to bring supermarkets to underserved neighborhoods. Strategic product placement is one of the keys to helping customers make healthy choices. For example, 

1% milk was easier to reach than whole milk and The Food Trust placed small containers of fresh fruit and healthy kids meals where customers were most likely to see them.

It was two days of compelling conversations and thought-provoking solutions. I was honored to have been part of it and I am proud of the role GSK continues to play in building healthy communities.

Photos by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Photos by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce