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Meet Michael—a fifth grade soccer player recently diagnosed with asthma. Since Michael’s mother made a doctor’s appointment when his cough lasted longer than a week, he received much needed medical treatment, and his ailment didn’t sideline him from being a normal kid. Before then, Michael received preventative services, such as vision and dental care and immunizations. Now, Michael focuses on his studies not his illness and no longer misses as much school.

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Health Insurance Enrollment

Although Pennsylvania made significant progress expanding access to affordable health insurance for children and families over the last two decades, some children do not have health care, despite qualifying for public health insurance programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid. Currently, more than 9,000 children in Allegheny County are uninsured. These children are five times more likely to have unmet medical concerns, and three times more likely to not have access to prescription drugs, like asthma inhalers. Additionally, uninsured kids are 30 percent less likely to get medical treatment when injured.

So just how much is 9,000? Allegheny County’s uninsured children could:

• Form 900 Little League Teams
• Fill 152 School Busses
• Pack 360 Classrooms

To address this problem and expand access to affordable health insurance for children and families, Allies for Children partnered with the Office of Mayor William Peduto, the Allegheny County Health Department, the Consumer Health Coalition and Enroll America. The group developed a plan called Healthy Together and later received a $200,000 implementation grant from the National League of Cities to connect children to available health care coverage and ensure they received the basic services they need and deserve. Due to the success of the campaign, Pittsburgh was prominently featured  in reports about the national initiative. Continued work in children’s health insurance policy areas. To continue advocacy efforts around healthcare, Allies for Children is developing a Southwestern Pennsylvania plan to support the extension of CHIP funding.

 

Network Adequacy

Currently, Allies for Children is working to create policies to ensure that health plan provider networks offer children adequate care and access to a sufficient number of doctors, without having to travel long distances from their homes. Health insurance coverage is important, but without quality, affordable and timely care, even insured children may not receive the treatment they need and deserve. New managed care regulations require states to set new criteria for quality of pediatric care, including the accessibility of pediatric providers. The goal is for the Department of Health to adopt evidence-based standards, including oversight provisions, by the July 1, 2018 deadline.

To reach this goal, Allies for Children is actively engaged in an alliance with partner organizations, centered around a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical-Legal partnership, to understand and document barriers to care for vulnerable children in Allegheny County.  Allies for Children will play a leading role in convening Southwestern Pennsylvania partners, including insurance enrollers, FQHCs, advocates for children with exceptional needs, and providers for feedback and participation in constructing a survey tool used to better understand local barriers.

School Breakfast

To build a local health alliance and address food access issues facing children and youth, Allies for Children partnered with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and school districts throughout Allegheny County. The successful collaboration resulted in a report entitled Breakfast Basics: A Comprehensive Look at School Breakfast Participation in Allegheny County. The report, released during School Breakfast Week 2016, highlights how school policy changes can help combat childhood hunger and increase the number of breakfasts schools serve.
Using recently released data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Allies for Children and the Food Bank analyzed school breakfast participation numbers in schools across Allegheny County and conducted in-school observations to best understand student consumption and the impact of alternative breakfast models. The resulting report showcases how the Community Eligibility Provision–an option that allows eligible schools the chance to serve free breakfast to all students–is being implemented at Pittsburgh Public Schools. It also illustrates how alternative breakfast models used at schools, including Brentwood Middle/High School, Grandview Upper Elementary School and Penn Hills High School, significantly increased the number of students starting the day with a nutritious meal. The report also found positive changes in breakfast participation from 2013-2015, key years following the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.