Most children are not crazy about visiting their dentist. But for underprivileged children in the surrounding community of St. Christopher’s Hospital, the trip to their dentist means much more for them.
Ten years ago, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children did some reasearch of their surrounding neighborhoods and found dental health to be the number one issue facing the children of the area. St. Christopher’s then converted the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile into a dentist office on wheels, aimed at providing quality dental health to the poorer families in North Philadelphia for as little cost as possible.
According to SimplyMap, a database run through the Temple Libray’s website, there are about 6200 households in the Hunting Park area with the average household income at $31,948, well below the city of Philadelphia’s average of $57,941. Keeping these numbers in mind, it is easy to understand families in this area just will not be able to provide their families with necessitites, such as dental care. That is where the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile comes into play, providing these deprived children with the proper dental care.
As of May 2010, the program has reached out to more than 5,000 patients, providing care estimated at about $1.25 million between 2005 and 2009. Julianna Gelinas, the Director of Community Oral Health Initiatives at St. Christopher’s, said while the organization is definitely having a positive outcome on the children, the one’s who need their help the most are the one’s they will probably never connect with.
“We’re helping literally thousands of kids” Gelinas said, “But I feel that the one’s who need us most are the one’s that will never get into us. For whatever reason, whether it be family related, the children that we never end up seeing are more than likely the one’s who need us most.”
Following up with this sentiment was Dr. Afua Richardson, a dentist on the Care Mobile. While Richardson takes great pride in being able to provide dental awareness to the children of North Philadelphia, she hopes to one day be able to spread the movement throughout the entire city.
“What we’re doing right now is great, but one day, my hope is that we can reach out to families all over the area. Whether it be in South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia or Southwest Philadelphia, these are all areas that need some help to and so hopefully we can make it out to those neighborhoods one day too,” Richardson said.
Agreeing with Gelinas’ idea that the children who need the most help are the one’s that the program will never interact with, Richardson remained focused on the task at hand.
“We are definitely a positive for the community, but there’s always more to be done,” Richardson said. “For a number of different reasons, we may lose contact or never even come in contact with some children and the majority of the times, they’re the ones who need us the most. We just want to be able to help as many lives as possible.”
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile visits school within a four mile radius of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children five days a week, Monday through Friday. The program is available for children until the age of 17.