Eliminating health disparities
Extensive and persistent racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in child health and health care are leading to widely discrepant results for kids from varying backgrounds. Children’s Hospital Colorado is developing health equity initiatives to embed across our system of care so that all kids can have access to effective prevention measures, world-class care, and the resources they need to live healthy, full lives.
Health disparities in Colorado
1 in 4
Number of Colorado families who do not know where their next meal is coming from
Percent of Hispanic/Latinx Colorado children who were uninsured in 2019 compared to 2.7% of non-Hispanic/Latinx white children
In Colorado, Black infants die three times more often than white infants
Factors influencing child health
Medical care in a clinical setting accounts for only 20% of what influences kids’ overall health and health outcomes. The majority of children’s health is impacted by social determinants of health:
- Neighborhood and built environments, such as housing, transportation, playgrounds and air quality
- Social and community context and culture, such as civic engagement, discrimination and racism
- Education, such as level of schooling, literacy, language fluency and early childhood education
- Economic factors, such as employment, income and access to foods
A case study for how social determinants influence child health
Black children are three times as likely to have asthma compared to white children, and because of it, miss more days of school and make more trips to the emergency room than their white peers. To truly address asthma disparities, we must recognize the complex relationship between social determinants of health including economic stability and education, and systems that shape community conditions such as residential segregation and environmental injustice. In the case of asthma, racial and ethnic disparities in disease prevalence and symptoms have been exacerbated by decades of discriminatory zoning laws and housing policies. This created segregated neighborhoods in which Black communities were located near polluting industries, which can both cause and exacerbate asthma. Structural racism intensifies things like insecure housing and lack of access to health care. Asthma cannot be effectively treated in the hospital’s outpatient clinics or emergency department alone—it needs to be addressed by tackling systemic racism and through prevention and education in homes, schools and everywhere that children live, learn and play.
Children’s Colorado is a steward of health and wellness for kids
We have a moral imperative to ensure fair and just opportunities for all kids and their families to lead healthy lives and experience healthy futures. Eliminating health disparities also makes good economic sense. The high costs of care for vulnerable and underserved populations is well documented and includes issues such as greater frequency of expensive emergency department visits that could be avoided through preventive care, along with higher incidences of chronic diseases and the costly management that goes along with these conditions.
In partnership with our communities, we are proud to lead the effort to design and test innovative solutions for some of the most pressing pediatric health issues. As the largest nonprofit pediatric healthcare provider in a seven-state region that spans a 750-mile radius, Children’s Colorado is uniquely positioned to help coordinate community efforts and bring together organizations that serve kids to provide better health for everyone.
Programs addressing social and racial health barriers
Because so much of a child’s health is impacted by social determinants, Children’s Colorado has started several programs aimed at addressing these factors, including our Community Health Navigators Program and Resource Connect Program.
Community health navigators work in pediatric practices with diverse populations to build culturally responsive care and trusting relationships to help families secure resources that address basic needs, such as food, Medicaid benefits, transportation, housing and mental health care.
Resource Connect is a program that connects patients and families who need access to resources with community-based services to meet non-medical health needs, such as legal assistance for a range of issues, benefits enrollment into programs such as Medicaid, utility assistance, heating system repairs and food for women and young children through WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
At Children’s Colorado, we believe food is as important as medicine; children who live in households that experience a periodic lack of food are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly and be hospitalized more frequently.
In response, Children’s Colorado has developed a multi-pronged Food as Medicine (FAM) initiative that aims to reduce barriers to accessing food and demonstrate that a proactive approach to addressing families’ potential food shortages ultimately improves health and saves money. This strategy includes a food clinic at one of our health care locations where families can access nutritious food if they are facing shortages, along with a community garden that supplies the food clinic.
Black families disproportionately experience institutional and structural racism, which contributes to health inequities. These disparities can lead to mental health problems, as well as a high incidence of pre-term birth, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates among Black mothers and their families. Through our Black Health Initiative, Children’s Colorado aims to improve Black patient and family experiences and health outcomes. Led by members of our Black communities, we partner with those who share lived experiences to develop culturally responsive and focused programs and services intended to reduce the high incidence of anti-Black racism that contributes to premature births, health complications and deaths.
Help create more equitable health outcomes for all children
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