Erie Family Health Center: 2010-2011

Erie Family Health Center’s mission is to provide accessible, affordable and high quality health care for those in need, particularly the uninsured and the underinsured.  Erie Family Health Center was first established in 1957 as a volunteer clinic by doctors from Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  Erie works to ensure that all Chicagoans have access to high quality, culturally sensitive, bilingual health care services — regardless of their ability to pay.  Today, Erie cares for more than 35,000 low-income Chicagoans annually at 11 health centers, including three primary care sites, five school based health centers, one adolescent health center, and two dental centers. Erie provides primary care medical services, including pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine and women’s health. In addition, Erie provides oral health care, including primary dentistry and orthodontia, HIV/AIDS medical care, behavioral health counseling, case management services, health education and vision care.

A grant from the Washington Square Health Foundation allowed Erie to purchase a VisionScreener and an Audiometer for five of Erie’s sites which have greatly impacted the quality of care provided at the health centers.  The vision screener, a rapid automated vision test, requires no patient participation.  Erie previously used vision charts at these sites which delayed diagnosis and treatment of vision problems because they could not be used on infants and small children.  Additionally, the chart tests require recognition skills that many children, especially those who are developmentally delayed, do not possess.

The second piece of equipment, the AudioScope audiometer for testing hearing, is also fully automated, that requires no action on the part of the patient and is performed in seconds.  The tests previously used at Erie required that a patient listen and respond to a series of different pitches.  This commonly used test was also problematic.  First, Erie does not have sound-proof rooms in which to take auditory exams, leading to noise pollution interference with test results.  Second, as with the vision exams, infants and young children cannot participate, again delaying the point at which hearing deficits can be discovered and addressed.  With the support from the Washington Square Health Foundation, this new equipment has enabled Erie to provide high quality pediatric care in the community through the use of the rapid automated vision and hearing screeners.

The Washington Square Health Foundation grant serves one of Erie’s longest running programs, its primary care pediatric program.  Since its inception in 1957, Erie has focused on the wellbeing of pediatric patients through annual checkups and sick visits.  Erie currently serves 15,229 pediatric patients a year, representing 47% of its total patient population.  The equipment has enabled Erie to serve this population in a more accurate and timely way, allowing for early detection and intervention in vision and hearing difficulties. It also allows Erie to make more efficient use of each clinical visit, an important management issue as more children move from private practices to public clinics like Erie. In fact, Erie’s pediatric practice has grown within the last two years.  This expanded demand for services put a strain on Erie’s existing resources, including screening tools, causing delays in patient visits.  To address this, Erie expanded the number of available exam rooms at three sites and hired five new general pediatric physicians to address its growing pediatric population.  Coupled with the additional vision screeners and audiometers support from the Washington Square Health Foundation, Erie better serves its growing pediatric patient population, and is privileged and sincerely grateful to have a long-standing relationship with the Washington Square Health Foundation.  For more information please visit