Dr. Irwin Redlener will never forget the Martinique Hotel in New York City.
He wasn’t there as a guest. He was there to see firsthand the horrors of what was an infamous shelter for homeless families. The rooms were cramped, the hallways long and ravaged, shadowy dens for drug dealers and crack addicts. And amid it all were the children, innocents caught up in a cycle of poverty, degradation and neglect.
That’s when Dr. Redlener decided it was time to take the bus...to a better place.
In 1987, “The Big Blue Bus” hit the road. It was a state-of-the-art mobile clinic that Dr. Redlener launched with recording star Paul Simon to bring medical care directly to disadvantaged children in New York City. And that was just the beginning.
Today, with Dr. Redlener at the wheel, the bus has expanded into the Children’s Health Fund , a national network of more than 50 mobile and fixed-site pediatric clinics, as well as 25 innovative programs and affiliates that, so far, have provided health care for more than 200,000 needy children across the country. The doctor says that’s the tip of the iceberg.
“At least 10 to 20 million children aren't getting regular health care because they lack health insurance or live in severe doctor shortage communities.”
Dr. Redlener has also initiated a new program called “Healthy and Ready to Learn” which is designed to ensure that no child suffers from health-related concerns that can interfere with early development or success in school. Conditions such as uncontrolled asthma, the pain of untreated cavities, uncorrected vision problems, and the distraction of hunger can seriously hamper a child's progress.
“Try asking a family who…can't afford medical care for a sick child what it feels like to be stuck with crushing bills and the heartache of not being able to provide the best for those who are most precious to you.”
In his role as pediatrician-child advocate and president of Children’s Health Fund, Dr. Redlener has published, spoken and testified extensively on the subjects of health care for children and on national health policy. He served on the White House Task Force on Health Reform under President Clinton. And had a lead role in the development of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.
He is also the Director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness and its program on Child Well-Being and Resilience.
He is the author of Americans At Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared For Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now.