At Connecticut Children’s, our commitment to strengthening families and communities to promote children’s optimal health, development and well-being is of critical importance now more than ever. We find ourselves at a significant crossroads as we embrace the nationwide movement calling on organizations and communities to address longstanding issues of racial and social injustice, and as we fight the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing significant loss of life, long-term health concerns and additional hardships for people across the country, and is disproportionately affecting people of color. In response to both, Connecticut Children’s leadership, clinicians and community programs shifted their day-to-day focus to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as to meet the critical needs of children and families in innovative ways during this unprecedented time. This work is now highlighted in our latest Community Benefit Report.
Here is a closer look at some of the work highlighted in our Community Benefit Report:
Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Connecticut Children’s renewed its commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure a welcoming and inclusive culture in all areas of the organization. Under the leadership of Connecticut Children’s Senior Vice President for Human Resources Larry Milan, the organization developed and launched a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Framework during the summer of 2020 to reach team members, patients and their families, vendors and contractors, and residents of the communities Connecticut Children’s serves.
Under the Framework, Connecticut Children’s will ensure that all values, behaviors, actions, systems and processes are looked at through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. This will include hiring practices, performance reviews, continuous quality improvement as well as all other areas of the organization.
Key pillars of the Framework include:
- Adopting best practices from current initiatives: Many Connecticut Children’s departments have started their own efforts and dialogues to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in the work environment. These efforts will inform future organization-wide approaches. For example, Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health launched a Pathways to Action initiative that includes town hall discussions with team members and a smaller work group. The work group identified priority themes based on team member suggestions and is now developing recommendations for specific action steps to implement.
- Encouraging regular dialogue: Connecticut Children’s plans to infuse authentic conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion across the organization to ensure team members remain committed to making progress in these areas. The organization will launch forums and panel discussions, which will occur in addition to the virtual brown bag lunches with executive leadership, virtual lounges, and the “Ears for Peers” program that already exist to provide team members with an avenue to share ideas and seek support.
- Diversity audit: Connecticut Children’s will conduct an organization-wide diversity audit to seek input from team members through focus groups, interviews and surveys. The data collected will help leaders identify themes, assess priorities and make recommendations to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in the organization.
- Education, awareness and learning: Connecticut Children’s will leverage e-learning platforms and team meetings as places where team members can access information and increase awareness about diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, the organization will continue to update resources currently provided to team members through its internal website.
Pivoting to Address Pandemic Needs
In addition to our work addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, key elements of our shift to address the pandemic needs of children and families include:
- Video visits: Connecticut Children’s shifted traditional in-person office visits to video visits for our 30 subspecialties. Clinicians performed more than 25,000 video visits during the first four months of the pandemic, ensuring continued access to quality medical care for our patients. Video visits remain an option for patients even after in-person appointments resumed.
- Drive-thru COVID-19 testing: To ensure a safe and sound experience for team members and patients receiving in-person medical or surgical care, Connecticut Children’s launched drive-thru COVID-19 testing. The tests are available to team members who are exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 or who exhibit possible symptoms of the virus, as well as those who work closely with our most vulnerable patients. The tests are also available to all patients admitted for surgical procedures, as well as high-risk patients seeing clinicians for outpatient appointments. In addition, testing is available to medical residents with rotations at medical facilities outside of Connecticut Children’s.
- COVID-19 hotline: Connecticut Children’s launched a hotline for community providers and parents to access pediatric experts with questions related to COVID-19. Clinicians staff the hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide up-to-date information for callers.
- Community care bags: Connecticut Children’s Practice Quality Improvement Program donated 130 My Family is Strong! Community Care Bags to Hartford residents. The bags included a $100 Visa gift card, hand sanitizer, and helpful information for managing stress and building resilience during the pandemic. Hartford Food & Nutrition Services employees, members of the New Dimensions Christian Center, and other organizations received the care bags. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving supported the project with funding initially designated for an in-person training session for parents and community providers, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.
- Basic needs survey: The Help Me Grow National Center conducted a survey of its affiliates around the country to determine the needs for which families most frequently sought support during the early part of the pandemic. Affiliates reported families’ most pressing needs to be formula, food, diapers and wipes; childcare for essential workers; and perinatal and postpartum mental health supports and services. Affiliates utilized this information to respond to inquiries from families and quickly connect them to available resources to meet their needs.
- Virtual support groups: The Hartford Youth HIV Identification and Linkage Consortium switched from holding in-person to virtual support groups for adolescents who either are at risk for or diagnosed with HIV. They also began mailing out HIV test kits for adolescents to utilize at home, with approval from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Addressing Housing, Childhood Obesity and Other Identified Needs
Our Community Benefit Report also reports on the progress we have made as an organization to address needs identified in our latest Community Health Needs Assessment. These areas include remediating unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions, promoting nutrition and physical activity from early ages to prevent childhood obesity, addressing behavioral health needs of children and their families, and ensuring children are entering kindergarten ready to learn.
At Connecticut Children’s, we are proud of our clinical and community focus to improve the health and lives of children and families in Hartford and around the state. We look forward to expanding our community-focused efforts supporting children and families, and reporting on our progress in future Community Benefit Reports, to help ensure all children have the best possible chance to thrive.
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