Linda, the "Neighborhood Health Advocate"

Responsible Business US Spotlight: Health for All
Mar 31, 2016 10:00 AM ET

As part of my effort to uncover how my US colleagues are making our global responsible business commitments a reality in America, I spoke with Linda, GSK Community Partnership Representative, 26-year employee of GSK, the second in a three-generation family of GSK’ers, and a Philadelphia native. 

Linda represents GSK's focus on health for all. In the US, we know that about 80% of our health is influenced by factors outside the doctor’s office and in the communities where we live, learn, work, and play. Understanding the connection between our health and our community is important when working to improve health outcomes. I hope you'll take some time to read through my interview with our very own "Neighborhood Health Advocate:"

Katie: What does health for all mean to you?

Linda: I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’ve worked here my whole life and raised my family here, too. Philly is a city of neighborhoods, and we know the condition of our neighborhoods matters to our health.

It concerns me deeply that the neighborhood adjacent to the one I grew up in has alarming levels of violent crime, high school dropouts, STDs and chronic diseases, and has little access to healthy food [aka: food desert.] The deindustrialization of many neighborhoods in Philadelphia has contributed to the rising level of poverty in so many communities.

I’ve heard it said that “your zip code may be more important to your health than your genetic code.” I truly believe it. In Philadelphia, an individual in the next neighborhood will likely live ten years less than me. That’s a sad reality and it’s so unfair, especially for children.

To me, these community-based factors of health are completely fixable: diet and exercise, education, housing and transit, employment, community safety, and family and social support.  It is possible to provide children with safe places to play, healthy food to eat, and caring adults in their lives. But it takes all of us – community members, businesses, government, and nonprofit organizations – coming together and each doing our part. 

You asked what health for all means to me. To me, GSK’s commitment to “health for all” means leveling the playing field in the US so children growing up in some of the toughest neighborhoods, like West and North Philadelphia, have as good a shot at living a long, healthy, happy life as my own daughter.

Katie: Tell me more about GSK’s charitable programming to build healthier communities?

Linda: I’m so proud to be a part of the US Community Partnerships team at GSK. Over the last few years, we dramatically changed our charitable focus: from improving access to healthcare to building healthier communities. This is an important shift because it shows we understand how aspects of our neighborhoods matter to our health – for better or worse.  So, GSK is channeling our charitable awards and grants to the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and underserved populations, we engage young people from the neighborhoods as leaders in the process, and we are working in partnership with other organizations for greater collective impact. It’s such a joy to go out for site visits, meet the children and the families, and see the programs in action! 

Learn more about GSK’s global commitments to health for all and our progress.

This blog is part of a series through which Katie Loovis, GSK Director of US Corporate Responsibility, interviews US employees to understand how they are putting our global responsible business principles into practice in America.