In 1987, three New Yorkers—singer Paul Simon, Dr. Irwin Redlener, and Karen Redlener—came up with a novel plan to provide healthcare to the 11,000 children then living in the city’s homeless shelters and welfare hotels.
Their idea, which led them to create Children’s Health Fund (CHF), was that the best way to ensure children receive essential and quality healthcare is to deliver it to them where they live. That concept of bringing healthcare directly to children who had no other way of accessing it proved so successful that CHF grew to become a national operation over the nearly four decades that followed.
Today, through a fleet of mobile vans and numerous fixed sites operated by our network of 25 national network partners, we deliver wrap-around medical, dental, and mental health services to more than 100,000 children a year nationwide, the majority of whom are Black or Hispanic, and all of whom live in under-resourced communities.
Our reach extends from neighborhoods in New York City, our home base, to small towns in Idaho to the mountainous regions of Puerto Rico. We provide vital care to children regardless of their economic, social, or immigration status. If it weren’t for CHF, many of these children would suffer needlessly from preventable and manageable childhood illnesses that can have lifelong consequences.
Our approach to healthcare is both innovative and unique. Our mobile units—essentially medical offices on wheels—travel to the places we are needed most. In addition, our partners work out of a number of schools and other community sites and also provide care via telehealth. This mixed form of healthcare delivery enables us to directly serve the hardest to-reach urban and rural areas.
In addition to serving millions in communities across the country over the years, we have played a major role in influencing national health policy affecting children. CHF was instrumental in gaining Congressional approval of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and is actively engaged in ongoing efforts to uphold Medicaid and other crucial safety net programs. Other efforts have included working for increased access to healthcare and advocating policy solutions to address homelessness, transportation barriers, asthma care, poor nutrition, gun violence, and other issues.
Our agenda for the years ahead is equally ambitious. We plan to:
- Take the lead in implementing innovations in healthcare for underserved children,
- Invest in robust community-based research on behalf of children,
- Increase awareness about policies that address critical improvements in the healthcare needs of America’s children,
- Intensify fundraising activities, and
- Strengthen relationships with research and care-giving institutions.
Nearly four decades and six million doctor visits later, CHF has accomplished much, but there is still more to be done.
Thanks to the invaluable help we receive from our partners and funders, we have every confidence that the years to come will be our best yet.
As we enter our 36th year of this journey, we welcome everyone who wants to join us to help America’s children thrive and succeed. You can learn more about Children’s Health Fund and support our efforts at https://www.childrenshealthfund.org/.