Health disparities begin early in life. The infant mortality rate for black babies is nearly four times higher than for white infants, and Latino and black children are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to be overweight or obese. Disparities in childhood can lay the groundwork for even deeper gaps in adulthood. Can these disparities be prevented?
Finding a way to do so is among the goals of a partnership of experts and philanthropic organizations led by the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI), the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Health Foundation. Their work centers on transforming pediatric primary care – which all children receive – to allow providers to better meet the needs of children and families and prevent health disparities that begin early in life.
This month, the Connecticut Health Foundation awarded CHDI a $83,250 grant for the next phase of this work, which is also being funded by the Children’s Fund of Connecticut.
The idea is to ensure that pediatric primary care can serve families’ needs more holistically. While families would still turn to pediatricians for guidance on development and care when children are sick, their pediatricians – or other primary care providers – could also connect them to services that address other needs, such as accessing behavioral health care, help affording food, dealing with school challenges, or addressing maternal depression. Part of the goal is to ensure that pediatric primary care providers have the tools and support – and funding – to address children’s health in a broader way, ensuring that children are not just healthy but ready to learn and develop optimally.
“Nearly all children regularly see a pediatric primary care provider, who is often a trusted resource for the family,” said Lisa Honigfeld, CHDI’s vice president for health initiatives. “This positions pediatric primary care as a logical centerpiece of a comprehensive system to support the well-being of children and families. Ultimately, transforming the care and support children receive early in life could result in better learners, a healthier adult population, and a stronger workforce.”
CHDI has brought together a team of experts in health care, children’s health, policy, and insurance, to develop models for redesigning pediatric primary care. Key to this work will be identifying ways to fund practices that take on a broader role in children’s health, targeting outcomes beyond what have traditionally been part of health care, including ensuring children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
“This partnership has brought together care providers, payers, consumers, and child development experts to design systems that put the needs of children’s health first, recognizing that if we expect a broader set of outcomes, we have to find a new way of paying for health care,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation.
The grant awarded this month will support continued work on payment reform as well as two demonstrations of pediatric primary care innovations that would not be possible in the existing fee-for-service payment system.