Blog Community New Health Connectors match residents to health resources

This December, 16 Kensington community members graduated as Community Health Workers from a series of courses taught at NKCDC by instructors from Jefferson University. 

The training, funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, aims to address “social determinants of health” in Philadelphia—economic and social conditions like stress, employment, housing quality, or access to food that have a profound effect on people’s wellbeing. 

Upper Kensington ranks last of 46 Philadelphia neighborhoods in health factors and health outcomes, according to a study published this past summer by the City of Philadelphia and Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. The report, which is the first in Philadelphia to detail health measures at a neighborhood level, found that the Upper Kensington area ranked worst in mental health, adult smoking, drug overdose deaths, and injury deaths. 

This past summer, NKCDC hired 11 of the health workers-in-training to be part-time Health Connectors, conducting health screenings and connecting Kensington residents to health care, healthy food, credit and budget counseling, and other social service resources. 

“Even through the difficult times Kensington is facing, Kensington residents and organizations are pushing back,” said Lizette Lewis, NKCDC’s Workforce Development Associate, who supervises the Health Connectors. “These residents are taking a stand against the social determinants that contribute to declining health in the community.”

The Health Connectors’ first assignment was to compile a database of resources that is now being distributed in the community using an online screening tool developed by Jefferson University. By answering a short series of questions, Health Connectors are able to quickly match resources to an individual’s needs.

“Health Connectors walk through the neighborhood, station themselves at events and meetings, attend programs at local organizations, and keep regular hours at the NKCDC offices to connect residents resources that they may not be aware of,” Lewis said.  

Connectors are also helping to integrate a trauma-informed approach into NKCDC’s core services of housing counseling and community engagement, and improving how these two departments work together at NKCDC. “The combination of skills between these two departments provides a ‘one-stop shop’ of assistance for Kensington residents,” Lewis said. 

The screening tool is simple and takes approximately two minutes to complete. Anyone is invited to use it; there is no income guideline or restriction. Available resources range from housing or food, to clothing, education, transportation, and more. 

To complete the survey or request NKCDC’s Health Connectors to attend your event or program, please contact Lizette Lewis at llewis@nkcdc.org or 215-427-0350 ext. 110.