At Penn: Special Trips for Special Babies

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Media Contact:Gina Bryan | | 215-898-8721June 22, 2012

PHILADELPHIA -- Providing health care for children through doctor visits and hospitals is important, but there are also other activities that can help youngsters develop into healthy adults.

That is the thinking behind the Special Babies Clinic and its Special Trips for Special Babies program.

SBC, a follow-up clinic for high-risk babies discharged from the Intensive Care Nursery of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, serves many families from neighboring West Philadelphia who have socio-economic difficulties, said Hallam Hurt, clinic director and professor of pediatrics at Penn.

“Infants and toddlers in these families often are at ‘double jeopardy,’” Hurt said, “for a compromised developmental outcome, both by being pre-term and by being raised in a challenging environment.”

She points to research showing that “enriching experiences,” such as a visit to a zoo or museum, can have a positive long-term developmental impact.

Since 2010, the Special Babies Clinic has partnered with the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Museum in a program called Special Trips for Special Babies, “a new endeavor aimed at enriching the experiences of SBC children,” Hurt said.

The idea was based in part on a survey of 100 SBC families, which found that, despite close proximity to both institutions, two-thirds had not been to the zoo and two-thirds had not visited the museum.  More than half had not visited either one, Hurt said.
Both the zoo and the museum stepped up to offer free admission and free venue rides. SBC provided travel vouchers and snack bags through a special-purpose fund along with a contribution from the community affairs office and the Division of Neonatology of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Since the program’s inception, more than 650 people have benefitted. The reactions from children, parents and grandparents have been uniformly and enthusiastically positive.

”We feel these trips not only are providing children with a special experience,” Hurt said, “but are also providing families with an understanding of the importance of such experiences to their child’s development.

“Through the community partnership of SBC with the Zoo and PTM, we have been able to provide enriching experiences for many families.  We are so grateful for the immense generosity, enthusiasm and support of the Philadelphia Zoo and Please Touch Museum.”

A Flickr page of photos is available.