During an arduous journey from Central America to Long Island, a father had to carry his physically disabled 11-year-old daughter on his back. They ended up living in a small, unsanitary basement apartment. They couldn’t access food or basic services. They needed legal assistance with their immigration case, and the daughter badly needed medical evaluation and a wheelchair. They did not speak any English.

In 2017, United Hospital Fund created an initiative called Partnerships for Early Childhood Development (PECD) to address complex situations just like this one—and begin to better connect health care and community resources to meet pressing social needs. 

Our PECD initiative facilitates partnerships between New York-area pediatric primary care practices and community-based organizations. The goal is to help these two different sectors work together to address social and economic factors affecting young children. 

In the case of the family from Central America, they were assessed and treated by a medical practice on Long Island. The provider then connected them with the Interfaith Nutrition Network, Inc. (INN), its PECD partner in Hempstead, NY. 


INN staff secured accessible, temporary housing for the father and daughter while they await an immigration hearing, and the medical provider connected the family with an immigration attorney. The INN also made sure they had food and clothing. And not least, staff members worked with the medical practice to get the daughter an electronic wheelchair. 

“She desperately needed a wheelchair,” says Ana Francis, a social worker with the INN’s Center for Transformative Change. Without it, the girl could not attend school. 

Now, she is in school and is also receiving physical therapy. To make sure she can get to her medical appointments, INN also worked with the medical provider to arrange special transportation. 

PECD collaborations have demonstrated “great potential,” said INN’s managing director, Joanne Robinson, RN, MSPH. “You can have 1,000 doctor visits,” she says, “but if you’re homeless and lack access to regular meals, you’re not going to be healthy.” 

Learn more about PECD