Jefferson University Hospitals

Jefferson Announces Collaboration to Address Cardiovascular Health Disparities in Philadelphia



PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia is a city of disparities. It is home to areas of great wealth—but also areas of extreme poverty, which has an overall adverse effect on the health and longevity of residents. In fact, life expectancy can vary by 10 to 20 years from one neighborhood to the next. Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health (Jefferson) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (Novartis) are teaming up to “close the gap” when it comes to cardiovascular health.

Jefferson and Novartis are collaborating to launch “Closing the Gap,” a 3-year initiative designed to address upstream social determinants of health that contribute to adverse cardiovascular outcomes in underserved neighborhoods.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, takes a disproportionate toll on racial and ethnic minority communities. Working within Jefferson’s Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity (P-CHE), Closing the Gap will address risk factors for cardiovascular disease, across five targeted high-risk zip codes in North and South Philadelphia comprising approximately 200,000 individuals. The Philadelphia Collaborative for health equity builds on community strengths to improve health and wellbeing in communities. Novartis has committed resources and expertise for three years.

“At Jefferson we’ve put a stake in the ground: We have to reduce the zip code gap in health outcomes,” says Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. “The solution is creative collaboration with our communities and with future-thinking organizations like Novartis. Health inequity is the greatest challenge we face today, and this initiative will make a difference.”

“After decades of decline, deaths from heart disease are on the rise again. Adding to the urgency, a growing body of evidence suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has led to worsening CVD outcomes in the US,” says Victor Bulto, President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. “We are proud to join Jefferson to address health disparities in heart disease. By working together, it is our goal to ensure that all patients—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or geography—receive the care they need.”

The initiative will utilize two P-CHE sites that provide care and services to at-risk populations in the city—the Hansjörg Wyss Wellness Center in South Philadelphia and the Frazier Family Coalition for Stroke Education and Prevention in North Philadelphia, which was recently established in partnership with Temple University to address the 35-times higher rate of stroke in that community.

“We are grateful to Novartis for joining us in our efforts to close the health disparity gap in Philadelphia,” says David B. Nash, MD, MBA, the Dr. Raymond C. and Doris N. Grandon Professor of Health Policy and the Founding Dean Emeritus of Jefferson College of Population Health. “This program creates a strong infrastructure that will improve and enhance the lives of those in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

Services provided will include liaisons between the community and healthcare system to break down barriers that inhibit access to care; helping to secure housing assistance; workforce development training; food access; education regarding CVD risk factors; and enable access to physical and wellness programs, including diabetes prevention and management of hypertension.

Closing the Gap will aim to address policy and structural issues and concerns through community capacity building and advocacy. In addition, the initiative will include health screenings at community sites, such as schools, faith-based organizations, and community centers.

“Closing the Gap builds on Jefferson’s deep commitment to promoting health equity in Philadelphia,” says Sandra E. Brooks, MD, MBA, Executive Vice President and Chief Community Health Equity Officer for Thomas Jefferson University, who leads the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity. “Collaborating with others to tackle the drivers of health disparities and designing systems to improve access to quality healthcare are vital to our mission to improve lives.”

Media Contact:
Jessica Lopez
Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health