UHF Kicks Off Learning Collaborative to Help Hospital-Community Partnerships Help Children

Dr. Evelyn Berger-Jenkins and colleagues at the Charles B. Rangel Community Health Center are using routine visits to engage parents and identify poverty-related risks to healthy development, and connect families to community resources that can help.
Food insecurity. Homelessness. Violence. Stressed-out parents. Lack of safe playgrounds. All of these social and economic factors, and many others, can have a huge impact on the health and well-being of children, which is why they are labeled social determinants of health.

In early March United Hospital Fund announced a groundbreaking initiative, Partnerships for Early Childhood Development (PECD), to address these social determinants and their impact on New York City's youngest kids. Eleven New York City hospitals are partnering with community-based agencies in a year-long effort to help pediatric primary care practices routinely screen children ages 0-5 for the social and environmental risks that can interfere with healthy physical, cognitive, and emotional development, and connect them with the social services that can address those risks.

To make certain the partners get the resources, training, and support needed to succeed, UHF and the two other PECD funders, the Altman Foundation and The New York Community Trust, have established a Learning Collaborative (see graphics below), chaired by Dr. Benard Dreyer, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and director of pediatrics at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.

On April 4 Dr. Dreyer joined Suzanne Brundage, director of UHF's Children's Health Initiative, to kick off the Learning Collaborative with an online webinar, virtually attended by some 55 health care specialists and community leaders, all of them PECD members.

The participating pediatric primary care practices serve more than 26,000 children a year in New York City; UHF expects they will refer more than 7,000 children and their families to services during the coming year. The ultimate goal: to ensure that all young children in the city receive the interventions that can optimize their long-term health and well-being, readying them for success in school and in later life.

Webinar participants demonstrated the range of community partnerships and concerns in the initiative. Mount Sinai Health System, for example, is working with New York Common Pantry, Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services, and Children's Aid Society to address food insecurity. Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center is partnering with the Claremont Neighborhood Center, a 52-year-old organization that provides recreational and educational programs for youth, and Phipps Neighborhoods, the oldest nonprofit housing organization in New York City, to focus on housing and health navigation needs, and early learning and literacy. And NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens is working with Public Health Solutions, one of the city's largest health nonprofits, to identify and address perinatal depression, food and housing insecurity, intimate partner violence, and parental stress.

In addition to another three webinars, the Learning Collaborative will include three in-person meetings at UHF, the first one scheduled for May 25. There will also be a monthly newsletter focused on sharing national research, innovations, and funding opportunities. Finally, because measurement and evaluation is an important part of the initiative, a common evaluation framework will be built, focused on the screening, referral, and feedback loop process.