12 Feb, 2016

Study finds new model for pediatric appointments improves preventive care for low-income families

Medical Xpress | Sandy Garcia | 11 February 2016

Well-child care visits are the checkups that children receive to ensure optimal health and well-being. The appointments are intended to give pediatricians the opportunity to identify health, social, development and behavioral issues.

However, the checkups typically last just 15 minutes—often not enough time for parents and doctors to discuss parenting issues, child behavior and development, and sources of stress for the family. The lack of time can be especially challenging for low-income families who may require additional education for the parents or whose children may have greater psychosocial and developmental needs. 

To address these issues, UCLA researchers partnered with community pediatric practices to systematically redesign the well-child checkup. The resulting program, described in a 2014 study, was Parent-focused Redesign for Encounters, Newborns to Toddlers, or PARENT, which was created to be family-centered and a more effective way to meet parents’ needs in line with nationally recommended preventive care.

Now, in a clinical trial of PARENT, UCLA researchers have found that the new  significantly improved the delivery of well-child care and reduced the number of visits families make to the . Their findings are reported online Feb. 10 in the journal Pediatrics.

One key piece of the new model is having a trained health educator—a “parent coach”—provide routine preventive care services during the check-ups, in place of a doctor or nurse.

“This was in contrast to the traditional check-up visit that relies on a physician or nurse practitioner to provide preventive health services,” said Dr. Tumaini Coker, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “Parents had more time to receive customized preventive care services with the coach who could more readily connect them with community resources, conduct routine screenings and provide family-centered counseling.”