January 27, 2011
Rebecca Polinsky (formerly Propst, class of 2007) has joined the Advisory Council of Healthcare Without Walls (HWW), a comprehensive community-based program seeking to establish a medical home for homeless children.
Healthcare Without Walls is a collaboration among the Institute for the Study of Disadvantage and Disability (ISDD), the Department of Pediatrics at the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Mary Hall Freedom House, a successful and growing behavioral health program for homeless women. Since March 2010, HWW has broadened its community partnership to include Georgia State University’s Center for Healthy Development and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management.
Healthcare Without Walls operates within ISDD, which in 2009 was awarded a five-year, $250,000 Healthy Tomorrows grant to fund the HWW project by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of Health Resources Services Administration and by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In her former position as a Health Disparities Fellow in 2009 with the Center for Law, Health & Society and the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) at Georgia State’s College of Law, Polinsky established HeLP’s legal services office at Children’s hospital at Hughes Spalding. Her experience representing homeless clients at HeLP provided context about how socio-economic factors such as homelessness place children at greater risk for adverse health outcomes. The transience of their situation does not permit an opportunity for routine medical care and diagnosis of potential health or developmental problems.
"Many homeless children fall through the cracks of the system," said Polinsky, "and this is particularly devastating to children with special medical or developmental needs. They are not getting the benefit of early interventions which can improve overall health outcomes."
Polinsky is quick to point out that many homeless families utilize emergency rooms for more routine medical issues. "Establishing a medical home for children would reduce this costly practice while improving the consistency of health care that these vulnerable children receive," she said.
HWW strives to establish health care that is consistent, coordinated, comprehensive, and family-centered through an innovative health literacy program for mothers and through outreach and training within the pediatric community. One such effort was a Back-to-School Health Fair in August 2010, which over 300 children, families, and community groups attended.