Caring for Kids: A New Intervention to Improve Basic Medical Care for West Philadelphia's Children

February 27, 2003

The Injury Free Coalition for Kids (IFCK) of Philadelphia is embarking on a new community intervention with Drs. Evaline Alessandrini, Fran Nadel, Elizabeth Alpern, and Sarah Moerschel of Children's Hospital Emergency Department to improve basic medical care for West Philadelphia's children by educating their parents about common childhood illnesses and injuries and the appropriate course of action. The intervention, Caring for Kids: Illnesses and Injuries, is being developed as a result of research by Dr. Alessandrini indicating that West Philadelphia mothers often use emergency departments (EDs) for non-urgent illnesses and injuries that might better be treated in a primary care setting or home.

In order to implement the intervention, a $15,000 planning grant was awarded. With the planning grant, IFCK Philadelphia will help conduct focus groups of parents to identify the educational content that should be covered by the intervention. The curriculum, which will consist of a “didactic” session and skills demonstration, will focus on common pediatric complaints and diagnoses. Topics will include fever, colds, vomiting and diarrhea, and ways to access the primary care practitioner. These complaints and diagnoses were generated through an informal survey of pediatric emergency department and primary care doctors and nurses. They are the most common pediatric chief complaints and diagnoses of non-urgent problems presenting to ED’s.

ED and primary care nurses will teach the intervention. The education and skills component will occur over a 1-hour time period. Participants learn what they can do at home to care for minor injuries and illnesses including identifying symptoms, understanding natural patterns of common illnesses, intervening with appropriate care, monitoring, and following through as further care is indicated. Skills will include reading a thermometer, using a bulb syringe and measuring antipyretics. The curriculum will be highly participatory and incorporate the practice of care strategies that are taught. Participants will also receive supplies as part of the intervention, which will include a digital thermometer, bulb syringe, Pedialyte popsicles, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

The educational intervention will be evaluated to determine how it can be improved. We will also look at the health service use of participating families through the Children's Hospital ED and their primary care physician (PCP).


Linda Hawkins