Eight miles. A distance that can be traveled by interstate in as little as 18 minutes has a difference in life expectancy of as much as 18 years. The reasons are many – violence, poor living conditions, lead exposure, limited access to nutritious food, inadequate supply of primary care and Medicaid providers – with a devastating consequence: a child born in the Jeff- Vander-Lou neighborhood of North St. Louis can expect to die an average of nearly two decades sooner than a resident of Clayton. Little Bit has made it our mission to help close these gaps for the children of St. Louis, not only to make them better students today but improve their opportunities for success into adulthood.
We don’t walk alone in this pursuit and are pleased to align with several local healthcare organizations. In 2014, we forged an alliance with Healthy Kids Express, an outreach program of Children’s Hospital and BJC Healthcare. Healthy Kids Express has become a first-line defense for students in our partner schools, conducting vision and hearing screenings as well as dental care, immunizations and asthma specialty services. Created in 1999, Healthy Kids Express operates a fleet of three mobile care units designed to provide healthcare services to children in underserved areas in a fun and safe environment. “We want to promote the concept of a medical home for every person and easing the fear and anxiety that a child may have over the medical process is a first step – so we’ll play games, show them the equipment, put on educational videos,” says Lisa Meadows, NP and Manager for Healthy Kids Express. More importantly, she says, “it’s evident that not all students have encountered positive experiences with a health practitioner, with at least 50% of students failing their vision and dental exams combined.”
Of Little Bit, Meadows says, “They are excellent in identifying individual school needs, coordinating service providers and assisting throughout days of service.” Future plans together include delivering trauma-informed care through embedded behavioral therapists in two Little Bit schools in the next school year.