New Solutions on the Way

Community support fuels Seattle Children’s goal of creating wellness for kids from low-income and ethnically diverse families.

Published in Connection magazine, Spring 2019

Saleea Cornelius

Saleea Cornelius, now 13, has been a patient at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic since she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at just 2-weeks-old. “OBCC is a very special place,” says her dad Demont Cornelius. “Even if we need help at 3 a.m., we know our medical team is there for us.” The family hopes that research at Seattle Children’s will result in better care, and even cures, for complex diseases like sickle cell.

It’s one thing to peer at a sore throat.

It’s another to look beyond the end of the tongue depressor and see the whole child. To take stock of the web of strengths, challenges, needs and opportunities that shape their life. Things like nutritious food, stable housing, supportive families, compassionate communities, and safe places to learn, play and grow.

The importance of these social, emotional and environmental factors can’t be overstated. While they exist outside the traditional sphere of a medical clinic, they account for 80% of a child’s health and wellness.

“Health outcomes for children living in poverty have not improved for decades,” says Dr. Ben Danielson, senior medical director of Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC). “Reversing this trend requires tackling the issues that keep parents awake at night. We need to address all 360° of each child’s life – the medical and the nonmedical – if we intend to make measurable improvements in their health.”

What will it take?

To help families break through their unique challenges, OBCC is expanding its vision of what a medical home can be. It requires expanding partnerships with schools, community centers and social services organizations to knit a snugger safety net for families facing what can seem like insurmountable challenges.

It also calls for new ways of approaching age-old problems – a place where cutting-edge wellness programs and improved treatment protocols are developed and evaluated. OBCC at Othello Square will be the center of this work.

It is only because of the generous support of donors that Seattle Children’s will be able to make problem-solving for the social, economic and environmental roots of illness as important as care that is purely medical.

The Growing Wellness event in November 2018 was an opportunity to thank supporters for their ongoing commitment and to celebrate the launch of the $125 million campaign goal for Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic

“We were impressed by many aspects of the new OBCC, including its location in a high-need area south of Seattle and the combination of key services for children and families at one campus,” says Connie Ballmer, who, along with her husband Steve Ballmer, donated $20 million for OBCC at Othello Square. “We’re excited to support the work to give families access to a medical home of this quality, led by a reputable healthcare team that understands and truly cares about the complex challenges many families face.”

Seattle Children’s is also grateful for significant gifts from community leaders like Jim and Jan Sinegal, Scott and Laurie Oki, and Delta Dental of Washington.

“Good health – and good oral health – are social justice issues,” says Diane Oakes, president and CEO of Arcora Foundation, the foundation of Delta Dental, who notes that children of color and those from low-income households have higher rates of untreated decay, and are less likely to get dental care, than their peers.

“Poor oral health affects overall health, as well as a child’s ability to learn, sleep and eat. Dental problems can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, and even their willingness to smile. That’s why we’re working with Seattle Children’s and Odessa Brown,” says Oakes. “Delta Dental’s $5 million grant will enable OBCC to provide nearly 27,000 dental patient visits each year, more than doubling its current capacity. It is an important step in our journey to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a healthy mouth.”