Promoting healthy moms and kids

Read about how the Institute supports the Children’s Health Initiative

Whether it’s research to find new ways to learn if vaccines during pregnancy are safe or giving the most effective education materials to new parents, the Institute’s work supports the goals of the HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative.

The Children’s Health Initiative consists of projects to support mothers and children from pregnancy to age 5 by promoting early brain development, providing family-centered care and strengthening communities. The projects focus on goals such as:

  • reducing teen pregnancy
  • encouraging parents to read to their children
  • promoting drug- and alcohol-free pregnancies

The Institute supports these goals through several educational programs and lines of research.

Reach Out and Read

A national program that builds on the relationship between parents and their child’s doctor, Reach Out and Read encourages parents to read to their children. HealthPartners is a proud partner in this program in which pediatricians give a book to children aged 6 months to 5 years at all well-child visits and talk with their parents about the importance of reading.

In 2015, HealthPartners handed out more than 95,000 books in different languages as part of Reach Out and Read. The Institute’s Patient Education department, along with colleagues in quality improvement and clinical departments throughout the organization, worked to start the program and train pediatricians and their staffs.

Streamlined patient education materials for new parents

Park Nicollet obstetric patients were receiving many printed educational materials in pregnancy and beyond. So in 2014, a project team worked to streamline and standardize education in both print and online materials, drastically reducing the number of handouts.

The resulting books, eBooks and app have been launched at both Park Nicollet and HealthPartners clinics to give patients a consistent experience.

Maternal and child health research

The Institute’s team of maternal and child health researchers conducts many studies designed to improve health in mothers and their children.

For example, researchers Elyse Kharbanda, MD, and Jim Nordin, MD, work on a nationwide partnership that conducts studies on the safety of influenza and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines when given during pregnancy as part of the Vaccine Safety Datalink project.

The results have been presented to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the group that sets U.S. vaccination recommendations. “Overall, our research supports the safety of current vaccine recommendations—that women should receive the influenza and pertussis vaccines during pregnancy,” Kharbanda said.

Two other recent important Institute child and maternal health Institute studies were related to pregnancy and depression, according to researcher Nancy Sherwood, PhD.

One focused on a Web-based program for women at risk for depression relapse during pregnancy and after they give birth. The other focused on depression treatment during pregnancy using an approach called behavioral activation therapy. It found that behavioral activation therapy is effective for pregnant women, offering improvements in depression, anxiety and stress.