NICHQ Employee Spotlight:
In celebration of over 20 years improving health outcomes for children, we're sharing insights, memories and goals from the NICHQ team.
Full Name and Title
Kelly Edwards, Project Manager
Time with NICHQ:
How has your background/experiences led you to join a national children’s health organization?
NICHQ’s mission and projects are a wonderful combination of my passions and background. I received my bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Cognitive science from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) where I focused on the science of development and aging. During this time, I was introduced to the remarkable idea of health being directly linked to early childhood experiences during the critical period of development. I then attended Boston University to gain a Master’s in Public Health where I learned how changes in arguably every sector (health care, housing, education, environment) can have a direct impact on the health of individuals. While attending Boston University, I interned at a variety of organizations, all linked to maternal and child health, reaffirming my passion for this field. Now, as a Project Manager at NICHQ, I am fortunate to work on two early childhood (ages 0-3) projects helping states and communities across the country improve health outcomes for children by working within these sectors. I am proud to say I work at an organization that strives to continue learning and developing as our society learns more and more about best practices and improvements that can be made in order to improve children’s health.
Favorite moment on a NICHQ project:
One of my favorite memories from working at NICHQ was very early on. During one of my first weeks at work, I assisted with a large meeting for the Pediatrics Supporting Parents (PSP) project. During the meeting, the 18 pediatric practices we work with were invited to share the various changes they had been testing within their practices to promote children’s social and emotional development. As a brand-new member of the project, I was blown away hearing how excited and passionate the pediatricians were. Each practice shared how they were connecting with families, improving referrals, and increasing screening for children and mothers in their community. Just by listening to them, I could hear the impact that our project was starting to have. That passion has remained as I’ve continued to work on PSP and reminds me of the necessity of this work.
Biggest lesson-learned when working on a quality improvement project:
Remembering to start small. Making and perfecting small changes will allow for the larger changes down the line to be more impactful. As someone who has many dreams and is passionate about improving children’s health, I find myself wanting to jump into the bigger changes right away. However, working in quality improvement has taught me to start small, and in fact, fail small. Failing is a part of life and learning, and no change will be perfect initially. Starting small and making changes that can be adapted and improved before spreading will more likely produce the positive impact we want.
Funniest thing that ever happened on a NICHQ project:
While working on the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network (ECCS CoIIN) project, we held a three day in-person meeting in Atlanta for our 12 state teams to action plan for the next phase of the project. While in Atlanta, it was very apparent how passionate every ECCS CoIIN member is about early childhood systems building. It also became very apparent how passionate we are about good seafood. The last night of the meeting, our ECCS CoIIN team went out to dinner and found ourselves in a friendly competition of “Who can eat the most seafood?” when literal buckets of seafood were served to us. After many laughs, I’m very proud to say I came in 3rd place! Having the opportunity to bond and make memories with the many wonderful individuals who work on this project is something I am very grateful for and will not soon forget!
What are you most proud of from your time with NICHQ?
I am most proud of being a part of NICHQ’s equity team, working towards making sure NICHQ as an organization and each of our projects directly address racial equity. I am proud to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing racial equity and is committed to doing so.
What are your goals for NICHQ’s future?
My goal is for NICHQ to continue to be a leader in quality improvement while working hard to be equitable in our work to improve the quality of children’s health across the country. I want NICHQ to continue learning and improving as an organization while addressing racial disparities and inequity in communities. I hope that NICHQ plays a major role in closing the current gaps in health care and health outcomes.
NICHQ’s Next Steps: Update on the Equity Systems Continuum Initiative
The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, with funding by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is building upon an evidence-informed conceptual framework known as the Equity Systems Continuum to describe and define the systems that individuals and organizations currently operate within: Supremist-Designed System, Savior-Designed Systems, Ally-Designed Systems, and Equity-Empowered Systems. The Global Infant Safe Sleep Center (GISS) developed the original framework and serves as an ongoing partner in the project.
3 Strategies to Leverage Community-Based Research in Maternal and Child Health
During Spring 2021 DARE conducted a series of community listening sessions for the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep Improvement and Innovation Network (NAPPSS-IIN). Listening session participants were asked about the resources and tools that help them promote safe sleep and breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and additional support needed to meet community safe sleep and breastfeeding/chestfeeding needs. While the analytic results are forthcoming, DARE is excited to share key lessons learned during NAPPSS-IIN community listening sessions.
A Physician’s Reflections on Racism and Treating Sickle Cell Disease
For NICHQ’s current and future work, I am motivated by wanting to be a better version of myself in service of others. Wondering whether my own implicit biases impacted my care of patients and families, I realize that I cannot redo past ER experiences. If I could go back, I would slow down to acknowledge and try to set my biases aside and approach patients from a personally more informed perspective. But now, I can use my past, present, and future experiences to ensure NICHQ is amplifying important lessons from this multi-year effort reflecting the compassion, care, and commitment of hundreds of dedicated professionals in pursuit of equitable, accessible, and quality healthcare for people living with sickle cell disease.
NICHQ Employee Spotlight: Kim Sprunck
As NICHQ's Associate Director of Programs and Project Director for the Sickle Cell Disease Treatment Demonstration Regional Collaboratives Program and Content Development for Newborn Screening Clearinghouse initiatives, Kim Sprunk shares key takeaways and findings from the projects and their importance to NICHQ's overall programming goals.
Navigating Well-Child Visits and Vaccinations during COVID-19
Well-child visits and recommended vaccinations are essential, ensuring children stay healthy and are protected from preventable diseases and illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, and seasonal flu. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, data shows that fewer childhood vaccinations have been given and many children have fallen behind on their scheduled appointments. Healthcare professionals should utilize the following strategies to work with parents and caregivers to get their children caught up on missed appointments and recommended vaccinations.
Exploring a Nonbinary Approach to Health
NICHQ is not abandoning the traditional use of the terms “mother” and “maternal.” We are embracing the inclusive language of “birthing person/people” across our work. A move toward inclusive language does not force us to stop using language that so many people identify with; at its core, inclusion is about creating more space for one another. We are taking care to expand the use of these terms in our communications, on our website, in our resources, and eventually, in all our projects.