Child Health Equity Center Receives $3.5M National Institutes of Health (NIH) Award to Study the Impact of SDOH Screening in Neonatal Intensive Care Units
The National Institutes of Health has awarded $3.5M to UMass Chan’s Child Health Equity Center for a project aiming to improve infant health by standardizing the practice of screening for social determinants of health in an overlooked setting— the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Social determinants of health (SDOH)—the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age—are key drivers of health disparities. Screening for adverse SDOH and providing referrals to community resources are standard in many pediatric outpatient practices, but this is not currently the case in the NICU.
This lack of screening and referral represents a huge missed opportunity. Up to a quarter of families with preterm infants have unmet basic needs like housing or stable employment. Preterm infants are especially vulnerable to the impact of such adverse conditions, hence the importance of screening at this crucial stage. Through a standardized process, vulnerable patients will have a better chance of being referred to social services and community resources to help offset the negative effects of adverse SDOH.
Grant funding will be used to establish the WE CARE (Well Childcare visit, Evaluation, Community Resources, Advocacy, Referral, Education) model of SDOH screening and referral, already proven effective in outpatient pediatric settings in the NICU. The project will implement WE CARE in four NICUs and follow a cohort of 576 mother-preterm infant dyads for 12 months after NICU discharge.
The project will be led by Child Health Equity Center faculty Arvin Garg, MD, MPH and Meg Parker, MD, MPH, in partnership with their Boston Medical Center colleague, Mari-Lynn Drainoni, PhD, MEd. The grant represents 100% of the project funding.