Sometimes, a life is changed by nothing more than a question and its answer. 

For Shelly, who had just had her second child, it started with what seemed to be a simple inquiry. “I don’t remember the exact words, but a nurse from Good Samaritan Hospital asked me if I wanted to be part of a program to help new moms. I said yes, and she referred me to Cincinnati Children’s.”

Her youngest son, 1-year-old Braylen, toddles around on slightly unsteady legs, trying to follow his big brother, Terrence, as he explores the playground. Shelly keeps a close eye on the boys as she talks about her experiences as a single mother. 

“There is such a difference between now and nearly 10 years ago, when I had Terrence.” She pauses, watching Terrence help Braylen into a baby swing. Once her youngest is safely in the seat, she continues, “I have so much more support than I did with my oldest. And it’s making a big difference.”

Care Drives Us

Cincinnati Children’s sits close to the heart of the city in Avondale, not far from where it first opened its doors in Walnut Hills 134 years ago.

“We have tremendous respect for and commitment to our community,” says Robert Kahn, MD, MPH, who leads several Cincinnati Children’s initiatives to improve community health. “And all of us are here for one overarching reason—we want to help children thrive, whether that’s through medicine or broader support for families.”

That’s why Cincinnati Children’s is working to change the definition of healthcare from one that is held within the medical center to one that is integrated and connected throughout the community. It’s a rethinking of how to deliver care to everyone in a way that’s innovative, expansive and completely family-centered. 

It’s also one that relies on collaboration and connection—both within and outside of our walls. 

“We need to reach children and families where they are. We need to listen better to what they want and need,” Dr. Kahn says. “We don’t know everything—we need people who live in this community as our neighbors to be our partners.”

Propelled by Compassion

“No child should be hungry. No child should be homeless. Children living in poverty is unacceptable. So, I do my part,” Lisha Lungelow says emphatically.

As the community resource liaison at our Pediatric Primary Care Center (PPCC), Lisha’s warm smile is the first thing many families see when they come through our doors. Her job is to connect families in need to resources and help. On any given day, Lisha can be found picking up food from the local food pantry for a struggling family while they’re in with the doctor. Or, she may connect them with Legal Aid to address a housing issue.

Lisha also keeps track of job fairs and job training programs. Her desk is a bustling, friendly, working hub for families. Lisha teaches parents how to research and apply for jobs, create resumes, sign up for career programs and more—all while they’re here for their child’s visit with our care providers. It’s a one-stop shop to help set up families to succeed. 

“We want to make it as easy as possible for families to connect with the community resources they need to thrive—whether that’s finding a job or helping them find healthier housing,” says Dr. Kahn. “Lisha is invaluable to what we’re doing. Families trust her. They develop a relationship with her. And that helps us to ensure their kids stay healthy.”

In fact, Lisha was Shelly’s first contact at Cincinnati Children’s. “I met her at my first appointment,” Shelly remembers. “Lisha sat with me, asked me questions and listened to what I needed. She immediately made me feel connected and cared for.” 

Lisha helped Shelly obtain food assistance and daycare vouchers. When Braylen broke his leg, she was there at Shelly’s side, helping her navigate his care and needs while his leg healed. 

“She’s always there for me and my sons,” Shelly says, smiling. “It’s just me and the boys, and I don’t have a lot of family around to help. Lisha and Cincinnati Children’s have been such a blessing.”

Changing the Outcome Together

One of our core beliefs at Cincinnati Children’s is that small acts can have tremendous impact. That care and compassion will empower people. 

Today, Shelly and her sons are thriving—and she has become a community resource in Avondale for other moms. She is now a mentor in a breastfeeding group and helps connect those in need to people like Lisha for help and support. She’s also completing her community health worker degree to be an active part of a growing support network in Avondale and beyond.

“The support I’ve had through Lisha and Cincinnati Children’s has been so important to making sure my family is doing well,” Shelly says. “I want other moms to have that too.”

Dr. Kahn agrees. “It’s our job to make sure every child, every family, has what they need to be healthy and well,” he says. “We want to set the bar for what great healthcare should be—and that’s care beyond well checks and illnesses. It’s a holistic system that will provide families with the care, resources and connections they need for children to thrive.”

For Lisha, who embodies our belief that we are all caregivers, her job is her calling. “It’s super cool for the hospital to be aware of these social issues and how they affect child health,” she says. “As for me, what I do is what I do. It’s not a job. Helping families is my life.”

To learn more about helping vulnerable families in our community, contact Sarah Sullivan at 513-636-5664 or sarah.sullivan@cchmc.org.