At Unite Us, we know advancing children's health requires that we consider their overall well-being. This means assessing health not just by the absence of disease or premature mortality, but also by a child’s ability to thrive. It requires that we seek to address the full range of complex historical factors and community conditions that influence children's biological, behavioral, social, and physical environments.
Understanding root causes of poor child health outcomes
By several indicators of well-being, children and youth across the U.S. lag behind their counterparts in countries with similar levels of economic development (OECD, 2019). These disparities are most prevalent in the early childhood development period, as children in this country face much higher rates of infant and child mortality as well as poverty, hunger, and violence, when compared with children in other OECD countries. Poor health and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have consequences throughout adulthood, with negative impacts on physical and behavioral health, as well as future education and employment opportunities.
Child health outcomes often reflect neighborhood indicators of poverty, homelessness, and other social determinants. As a result, the U.S. sees persistent health inequities in children on the basis of race and socio-economic status. These health disparities are the consequence of systemic racism and other historical injustices, and play a role in perpetuating the higher health, economic and social burdens that many low-income, Black, indigenous people, and people of color, carry throughout their lives.
Models of progress
Unite Us’ shared, community-wide infrastructure creates an ecosystem that allows health, human, and social service providers to leverage evidence-informed interventions such as home visitation programs, as well as locally developed interventions that address the unique needs of Black and Indigenous mothers and babies. The Unite Us Platform also brings together the work of a wide range of children’s health stakeholders and public agencies whose efforts are often disconnected and less effective in siloes.
There are many incredible health and community-based organizations who have made significant progress in this space. Our team at Unite Us is dedicated to supporting these efforts and working closely with our partners to develop and identify new solutions and best practices. Here are just two examples of this work from our networks:
In California, our platform was highlighted as a solution to support ACES Aware, an initiative led by the Office of the California Surgeon General and the Department of Health Care Services to give Medi-Cal providers training, clinical protocols, and payment for screening children and adults for ACEs.
In Sarasota and Manatee Counties, the Unite Florida network recently partnered with the First 1000 Days Initiative, a multi-sector collaborative dedicated to coordinating care for all expectant mothers and families with young children in need of community support to ensure children can thrive. Unite Us supports the First 1000 Days’ strategic goal to ‘Reduce Sources of Stress,’ for young families by reducing barriers, improving coordination of services, simplifying processes to get access to care, and ensuring basic needs are met.
"Last Friday, I worked with a client with pressing medical needs who had lost her job and health insurance because of COVID. She wasn’t asking for much from us but I could sense that she felt defeated and was desperate for assistance. I entered her into Unite Us and referred her to a women’s health clinic. I just got a note from the platform that the clinic had contacted her and are helping her get emergency Medicaid, financial planning assistance and parenting support. It brought me to tears to read that. This client has been weighing on my heart all week.” - Donna Love, Early Literacy Outreach and Partners Coordinator for Sarasota County Libraries
Coordinated solutions now more important than ever
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the challenges facing low-income families in historically marginalized communities with anticipated long-term repercussions for many children over their lifetime. For children, school closures and new financial hardships can cause emotional strain, loss of health coverage, food insecurity, and reduced access to health and social services including school-based health clinics, school screening and early intervention programs, on-site counseling, school based lunches, and physical exercise. Interruptions to care and routine as a result of the pandemic may also adversely affect the lives of nearly 13 million children who need ongoing care to meet complex health needs (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020).
Around the country, we are building an ecosystem centered on meeting the needs of children and their families. Whether you’re a teacher, doctor, clinician, school nurse, or social service provider, our mission is to empower you to connect children and families to the services they need. Together with our partners across 40 states, we are actively working to improve the lives and outcomes of children and youth, because we all believe that the zip code a child is born into should not determine their health, well-being, or chance at a fulfilling life.
Learn more about how Unite Us can support your efforts: