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UCLA Partners with 211LA to Test a Novel Approach to Early Childhood Developmental Screening and Care Coordination for Vulnerable Families

The Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute at UCLA, along with the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, is pleased to announce a new grant awarded to Drs. Paul Chung and Bergen Nelson by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Drs. Chung and Nelson will partner with the Developmental Screening and Care Coordination project at 211LA, led by director Patricia Herrera, as well Clínica Oscar A. Romero and its Medical Director, Dr. Geoffrey Booth, to test the effectiveness of an innovative, telephone-based approach to early childhood developmental screening and care coordination for patients seen for well-child care.

The grant is part of the RWJF Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) program, a multi-disciplinary effort to build the evidence base about how to organize, finance and deliver public health strategies to improve population health. One research priority for the program is to bridge public health and health care systems. This project, scheduled to begin in early 2015, will test an alternative delivery of an evidence-based practice—early childhood developmental screening—by randomizing patients that come in for routine well-child visits to Clínica Romero, to receive developmental screening and care coordination through 211LA or through the usual clinic processes.

Developmental screening is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to identify developmental disabilities in the first 3 years of life, in order to make timely referrals for evaluations and to early intervention services. Despite these professional recommendations, studies have shown that many children are not screened by their primary healthcare providers, when they are screened they often face challenges following through with referrals, and many children with developmental disabilities are not identified until they enter kindergarten. This delay is even more pronounced for children from low-income and racial or ethnic minority families. 211LA serves a vital role in linking individuals and families with a wide range of needs to critical social services. Since 2009, 211LA has been offering developmental screening using structured, validated screening tools, to thousands of families with young children in LA. Beyond just screening, the 211LA program provides intensive care coordination for families needing a range of services, linking them to a rich network of community-based services. The program has nearly 50 memoranda of understanding with service providers and key partners, and has served over 9,000 families in the past 5 years.

“This research grant is critical for demonstrating the value of partnerships between 211 and health service providers to ensure that intervention services are received when they are most effective to a child’s development. We are thrilled that RWJF, which initially helped to launch 211LA’s innovative screening approach, is now helping to build the evidence for this highly replicable model.” Maribel Marin, Executive Director of 211LA

The UCLA research team, 211LA, and the Clínica Oscar A. Romero, are all committed to improving care for vulnerable families with young children in LA, and are hopeful that this study will provide important evidence about a unique link between public health and clinical services.   

“This partnership with 211LA is a perfect example of how the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity collaborates with community organizations to jointly conduct programs to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities. Because 211LA is part of a national network of 211 call centers, effective programs have a very high potential to be adopted across the U.S., to benefit millions.” Alison Herrmann, Assistant Director, UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity