Together at the Table is a HMG Blog series that highlights the crucial role of conversations that bring partners together to advance our collective work. Regardless of what organization, program, or initiative we each represent, we can all agree: there is a reason for everyone to be together at the table. When we share our values, knowledge capital, our successes and failures, we accelerate change. Incremental efforts can become transformation.

In October of 2018, Dr. Dworkin and I were asked to present at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Home Visiting and Early Childhood Grand Rounds. We were, of course, honored by the request and thrilled to use this national platform to speak on behalf of our HMG National Affiliate Network.

Invitations to opportunities such as this one are incredibly valuable to our goals at the National Center to raise the visibility of efforts and impact of Help Me Grow affiliates and to use a national stage to promote the kind of environment that will allow intrepid system change agents all across the country the resources needed to make progressive change. We don’t take these kinds of opportunities lightly! We ask ourselves, given this particular discussion, these specific hosts and participants, this unique moment, how can we use this connection to support our affiliate network?

Our approach to this national Grand Rounds opportunity was to encourage novel thinking when it comes to child health services transformation, and that while quality health care is a key determinant of children’s healthy development, it takes a comprehensive, cross-sector, systemic approach – such as the Help Me Grow model – to ensure all children are able to thrive.

The main points we attempted to drive home in our presentation included:

  • While we acknowledge the relatively modest potential for scorable savings within pediatrics, especially as compared to adults (e.g., seniors), the potential for long-term savings is great. Furthermore, the benefits of investing in a new model of pediatric service delivery that prioritizes the optimal, healthy development of vulnerable children yield returns on investment in multiple sectors, including child health, behavioral health, special education, child welfare, and the corrections system. From a societal perspective, such investments are critical to ensure long-term workforce development and even national security. While quality health care is a key determinant of children’s healthy development, the critical contributions of social/environmental, genetic, and behavioral factors demand a comprehensive, cross-sector approach.
  • Children’s health services transformation allows for health systems to take chances, and think creatively about what is possible for an integrated model that isn’t being driven by cost savings or cost containment.
  • The HMG system model offers a framework that is able to support that kind of comprehensive, cross-sector approach to early childhood system building and through its components, works to strengthening families by enhancing protective factors as a key to promoting children’s optimal health, development, and well-being. HMG leverages community- and family-based support services to link children to the most appropriate services and, in so doing, offers a child health care model that has the potential to maximize cost savings. HMG was recently acknowledged in a joint policy statement by the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Education. The policy statement encouraged all states to adopt a centralized intake and referral system, such as HMG, to ensure families have timely access to appropriate services.
  • Our experience across the 28 states of the Help Me Grow affiliate network demonstrates that states, regardless of their political orientation, have strong interest in a child- and youth-focused care delivery model that combines and coordinates health care and health-related social services.
  • The National Center supports progressive, innovative approaches at the local, state, and national-levels to ensure all families are optimally supported so that children across the country may thrive. We encourage bold and venturesome initiatives by funders, leaders, and federal agencies that serve to lay fertile ground for intrepid system change agents across the country to try bold and promising innovations and transform systems on behalf of families.

We were pleased simply to have the venue, through MCHB’s Grand Rounds, to make these important points to so many listening in around the country. What we didn’t know to expect was that joining the call were representatives from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), with some progressive input of their own…

Stay tuned for Part II: we’ll be sharing some exciting news and a new opportunity for the HMG National Center and Affiliate Network.

Kimberly Martini-Carvell is the executive director of the Help Me Grow National Center and the Associate Director for Capacity Building, Organizational Learning, and Professional Advancement at the Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health.