Introducing Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program

By: Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH

Have you ever wondered why, with so many bright people who have so many great ideas, it seems like some problems just never seem to get solved? We did too, especially when it comes to promoting children’s health.

Now, we are setting out to change that.

Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) just launched its new Advancing Kids Innovation Program (AKIP). The program seeks to collaborate with individuals and organizations that create and implement innovative strategies to foster the healthy development of children, strengthen families and support communities.

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center has a long track record of introducing and scaling up promising community-focused innovations that are similar to those we are now looking to support.

The Help Me Grow® child development model serves as one example. Our Paul Dworkin, MD, developed and pilot-tested Help Me Grow in Hartford back in 1997. The model identifies developmental and behavioral concerns among children who are at risk for delays or disorders but whose conditions are not severe enough to be diagnosed. The model also provides a path for care coordinators to connect those children and their families to existing community-based programs and services through a central call center. As a result, such children are getting help before problems escalate and become more difficult and expensive to treat. Now, 20 years later, Help Me Grow has expanded to serve children and families through affiliates in 28 states that receive support from the Office and its Help Me Grow National Center.

As the Office seeks to advance other impactful innovations, it is using the lessons learned from expanding Help Me Grow to help others along their journeys. That’s exactly why it formed AKIP. While innovation is a priority for the Office and AKIP, we recognize that finding people with the types of innovations we can really help is difficult, but not impossible.

Interested in learning more about how AKIP might be able to help you? Here’s a look at our three core components:

  • Outreach & Networking: cultivate a network of social innovators and innovation supporters by building relationships, facilitating connections, and promoting the diffusion of knowledge, skills, and resources through strategic outreach and engagement activities.
  • Consultation & Support: collaborate with and support social innovators addressing the critical needs of children and families.
  • Data Collection & Analysis: understand the role and impact Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health and other children’s hospitals have as innovation incubators.

AKIP is uniquely positioned as an innovation supporter because of our affiliation with both the Office and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. We have access to expertise others simply don’t have including a comprehensive system of child health providers, 15 community-oriented programs, and a network of community-based partners. We are able to work with a wide variety of innovators from different sectors and offer a unique value proposition:

  • Access: to partners, researchers, evaluators, implementation specialists, children’s service providers, public agencies, policy makers, funders, and populations of children and families.
  • Expertise: in comprehensive early childhood systems and services, program design, process and outcome evaluation, sustainability, and diffusion.
  • Resources: including individualized technical assistance, training, and tools.

We feel that AKIP is already a step ahead of other hospital innovation programs which often focus on developing devices, technology, and pharmaceuticals to address specific illnesses and diseases. In contrast, we focus on innovations that promote health in the hopes of preventing children from needing the medical and surgical services Connecticut Children’s provides.

We share Connecticut Children’s vision to make the children of Connecticut the healthiest in the nation. We are proud to be part of an institution that has a demonstrated commitment to promoting healthy development for all children by extending its reach beyond hospital walls and out into the community. We look forward to cultivating and supporting community health innovations that can be implemented where children and families live, work, study and play.

To connect with AKIP, send an email to advancingkids@connecticutchildrens.org.

Jacquelyn Rose, MPH, is the program manager for Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program.

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