Neighborhood Health wins $25,000 prize in national pediatric health challenge


Pediatrician Dr. Megan Prior at Sherwood Hall clinic meets with patients in pre-pandemic times (Credit: Neighborhood Health)

Neighborhood Health, a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center headquartered along the Richmond Highway corridor, recently participated in a five-month pilot to promote children’s preventive health and was awarded a $25,000 prize for its success.

As part of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s nationwide Promoting Pediatric Primary Prevention Challenge, Neighborhood Health sought to increase well-child visits at its Sherwood Hall Lane pediatric clinic and its City of Alexandria-based Casey Health Center, where many families had fallen behind on care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership of Dr. Carolina Saldarriaga Perez, a pediatrician at Casey Clinic, Neighborhood Health proposed using a text messaging campaign, gift card incentive and free transportation offer to help increase well-child visits. The proposal was one of 50 accepted across the country, and Neighborhood Health was awarded $10,000 last spring to pilot the program.

During the pilot — which lasted from June to November 2021 — Neighborhood Health held a Back-to-School Physical Day where children received both well-child visits and backpacks with school supplies. Over the following months, the clinics sent text reminders and called families to make appointments, offered free Lyft rides to and from visits, and rewarded families with $20 VISA gift cards after appointments were completed. By the end of the program, Neighborhood Health successfully raised the percentage of children who were up-to-date on well-child visits by nine percentage points.

Children receive backpacks with school supplies and gift cards at Back-to-School Physical Day clinic (Credit: Neighborhood Health)

Pilot project data was submitted to the challenge organizers, and in late January 2022, Neighborhood Health received word that they were one of 20 winners of a $25,000 prize. The health center plans to use the money to re-establish its “Reach Out and Read” program, which encourages pediatricians to talk with parents about the importance of reading aloud to children and provides free age-appropriate and culturally appropriate books for children ages six months to five years to take home after well-child appointments.

According to Saldarriaga Perez, Neighborhood Health conducted 2,668 well-child visits at both the Sherwood Hall and Casey Clinics during the six-month pilot. The health center plans to continue using text outreach to families and holding back-to-school physical days.

“We were really able to address the problem of children that had been delaying their care due to the pandemic,” said Saldarriaga Perez.

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