Innovations and Inspirations for Improving Children's Health: September 2016

Posted September 01, 2016 by Josh Grant

Children Playing Tug Of War
Innovative and inspirational programs are helping improve child health outcomes.

Across the United States, organizations and government agencies are creating new approaches to improve children’s health. Because we support innovation for helping children lead healthier lives, we’ve highlighted some of the most exciting initiatives we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Read on to learn how some groups are addressing critical health needs:

Trucking in Nutritious Foods
Food trucks may be best known for turning gourmet meals into street food, but some are filling a critical gap: bringing nutritious options to children in underserved areas. Around the U.S., some communities are now using food trucks to supplement the Summer Food Service Program’s (SFSP) Summer Meals Program, which provides free or reduced-priced meals for children who receive similar services at school. The vehicles are sometimes necessary because families either can’t access meal centers during the summer or are in an area that lacks a food assistance program.

Two primary strategies have emerged for these types of food trucks so far: going to rural communities and staying in accessible areas like parks. Both approaches have their benefits; the former ensures that families outside of urban centers can still have nutritious food after the school year ends, and the latter targets large portions of the population.

Healing the Community
Children’s Health in Dallas is no longer just focused on helping patients, it’s trying to heal entire communities. Four years ago, the hospital began developing ways to address chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes on the community level due to declining health indicators. Health observed 32 families who have at least one member with a chronic condition and found that they think about daily well-being more than general health, meaning they're more concerned with how they feel every day rather.

Through testing different approaches to address social determinants of health, the medical center has found that empowering families with options for treatment and care right in their communities improved their well-being. For instance, one asthma initiative reduced emergency room visits by 50 percent by connecting families with community health programs. Because of these results, Children’s Health is also focused on creating a business model to sustain community success, including enrolling 15,000 children and families in a new HMO plan that will give them access to healthcare navigators.

Camping Out with Diabetes
This summer, 200 children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes attended Camp Victory in Louisiana at no cost to them or their families. Each year, the camp runs two, one-week sessions–one for 6 to 11 year olds and the other for 11 to 14 year olds–during which it provides all necessary medical supplies to kids who attend.

In addition to traditional summertime activities like archery, Camp Victory also provides diabetes care and education. Blood sugar levels are checked four times a day so children’s medicine and food can be adjusted as needed. Counselors and medical staff members also teach children how to eat properly and use their medical supplies, empowering them to control their health. The goal is to help campers learn what they need to thrive for years, so the week is more impactful than one spent at an average camp. 

What children’s health innovation stories have you read lately? Share them with us @NICHQ on Twitter!

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