South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020

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June 2006 - Volume 2 - Issue 12


HealthConnect, The Children’s Trust Major Health Initiative, Will Assist all Health Professionals

The world-wide web does not discriminate. Whether you’re a seasoned health professional or a layman, should you opt to Google the phrase "health recourses in Miami-Dade County" more than 1,107,000 websites are available to surf. In deed, navigating the health system, no matter the vehicle, is a formidable task. Complicating matters is the fact that: 90% of Miami-Dade's public schools lack school nurses; follow-up for in-school health screenings is limited; more than 100,000 of Miami-Dade's children lack medical insurance; and a limited number of children have a personal doctor. Also, poor health and a high rate of school absenteeism, coupled with low performance – are linked to a lack of preventative health care. For these reasons, and more, The Children's Trust has spearheaded HealthConnect, a comprehensive, quality-driven health initiative, with the ultimate goal of having the healthiest children possible in Miami-Dade County.

HealthConnect was presented to The Children Trust’s Board of Director’s as a seamless system of care for children, prenatal through adolescence, that will address their physical, emotional and developmental needs, as well as those of their entire family. $19.5 million has been allocated per year, with $11.3 to be spent the first fiscal year of the program.

(l-r) Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, best-selling author, Clinical Professor Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and speaker/consultant to HealthConnect for the early years; Modesto E. Abety, President and CEO of the Children's Trust, Dr. Judy Schaechter, Pediatrician and Children's Trust Board Member

Three major components fall under the HealthConnect umbrella, the first being HealthConnect in schools, developed to address the health needs of school age children in the 330 plus Miami-Dade public schools. By the start of the school year, The Children’s Trust plans to place nurses and nurse practitioners, social workers and health technicians in more than 75 schools, with the sole purpose of meeting student's immediate mental and physical health concerns. At the same time, HealthConnect professionals will help students and their families to connect with a local pediatrician or a family doctor, a physician, who with the student's medical records in hand, will subsequently treat the medical needs of the child. In turn, HealthConnect in schools will complement physicians by collaborating with them to manage students' chronic diseases on a daily basis.

Community partners of HealthConnect in the schools include: the Miami-Dade Public School System, with a $7 million annual contribution; and the Miami-Dade Health Department, with the addition of approximately $3 million to the program. Also, plans are in the works, under the Trust's leadership, to partner with public and private hospitals, health care providers and established community service agencies.

"HealthConnect in schools is a bold initiative to bring resources together to serve the health needs of our school children in Miami-Dade County in an innovative manner. The Miami-Dade County Health Department will work with other partners, making this program a national model," stated Lillian Rivera, RN, MSN, Administrator, Miami-Dade County Health Department. The nurse/nurse practitioner will not only be available to comfort an ill child and help better maintain the chronically ill, luxuries not available in schools today, but also will offer health screenings and assessments, with follow-up. There also will be a system for dealing with crisis medical situations, appropriate administration of medications, mental health counseling and most importantly, links to other medical providers.

HealthConnect is already strategically placing community health care workers throughout Miami-Dade County neighborhoods. They are working neighborhood by neighborhood, to help children and families navigate the complicated route to quality health care. They are not only identifying health care needs, but also guiding children and families to health care and insurance providers.

"An integral part of HealthConnect will serve teen and first-time mothers. Health promotion is so important in the early childhood years," commented Dr. Judy Schaechter, Board Member of The Children's Trust and a practicing pediatrician. Family coaches will offer free, pre-natal and post-natal home visits, collaborating closely with childhood agencies and providers, birthing centers and area providers, guiding expecting teens, new mothers, infants and toddlers to better health.

HealthConnect also proposes to enhance access to medical consultation by adding a nurse to The Children’s Trust 211 Helpline. Practical information and referrals during the hours that medical offices are traditionally closed will be made available.

Ultimately, HealthConnect will enhance the practices of community providers and physicians by connecting children to a pediatrician or primary doctor and by identifying health coverage gaps. As the teams refer children to community health providers and insurance, doctors will benefit and assist a significant number of new patients. This seamless system of care will improve the quality of life for everyone involved.

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