Measuring the Well-Being of North Carolina’s Youngest Residents

September 22, 2020

Team members at the Academic Pediatric Association Region IV Annual Meeting in February 2020.
Sophie Hurewitz, Rushina Cholera, Ainsley Buck, Eliana Perrin, Aaron Pankiewicz and Stephanie MacPherson at the Academic Pediatric Association Region IV Annual Meeting in February 2020. Undergraduate team members Hurewitz and Buck received the student abstract award for “Measuring and Addressing Social-Emotional Well-Being in Early Childhood."

Launched in February 2019, the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan aims to ensure that by 2025, all young children in the state are healthy, safe, and ready to succeed in school. One of the plan’s ten goals is to have a reliable measure of social-emotional health. For example, how well can young children regulate their emotions, follow directions, and express wishes?

Nathaniel Neptune.
Nathaniel Neptune

The Bass Connections NC Early Childhood Action Plan team set out to understand how health systems across the country screen for social-emotional health and to determine best practices for measurement at the population level. Community team members included the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Durham County Department of Social Services and the Partnership for Children.

“Our team’s goal was to help the state answer questions about social-emotional screening at the population level,” said Nathaniel Neptune (MBA ’20, MD ’21). “As co-project manager, I was intentional about letting the undergraduates have a big say about how things were going to get done. We made decisions together.”

NC Early Childhood Action Plan team meeting.
NC Early Childhood Action Plan team meeting

Team leaders were Rushina Cholera and Gillian Sanders Schmidler (School of Medicine), Elizabeth Gifford (Sanford School of Public Policy) and KK Lam (Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute).

The team interviewed 37 experts from 19 states and 8 national organizations about efforts to monitor and collect data, the most promising policy levers, and the most vexing barriers to implementation. Drawing on their research and interview findings, team members recommended an equity-based approach that incorporates regular caregiver/child screening, data sharing, and improved strategies for patient follow-up.

Next steps include developing an implementation framework for social-emotional health measurement at the population level.

Research Continues through Bass Connections

In 2020-2021, this work will advance through a Bass Connections project team, North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan: Evidence-based Policy Solutions. The team’s research will focus on either the plan’s Food Security goal, which aims to decrease the percentage of children living in food-insecure homes, or the Healthy Babies goal, which seeks to lower the infant mortality disparity ratio.

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