Addressing health disparities, creating resilient communities

Addressing health disparities, creating resilient communities

Teens holding Best Starts for Kids signs

Photo courtesy of Public Health – Seattle & King County

King County is made up of richly diverse communities and is a region of considerable opportunity. Yet cross from one neighborhood to another and it could mean a difference in life expectancy of more than a decade.

Neither ZIP code, nor family income will constrain young people from pursuing lives of promise and possibility thanks to the county’s new voter-supported Best Starts for Kids program and an innovative partnership between the UW School of Nursing and Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Partnership at a glance graphicBest starts for kids

“This partnership builds important bridges between academia and the public sector for the good of the community,” said Dr. Azita Emami, executive dean of the UW School of Nursing.

Best Starts for Kids is an initiative to improve the health and well-being of King County by investing in prevention and early intervention for children, youth, families and communities who are at risk for a host of chronic diseases. It will be the most comprehensive approach to early childhood development in the nation, supporting families through prenatal care, birth, early childhood and adolescence. The initiative was made possible by a voter-approved levy to fund prevention and early intervention strategies to improve the health and well-being of children, youth and their communities.

Our vision

Best Starts for Kids is the first of what is expected to be many projects to result from this partnership, which provides practical learning experiences for graduate students interested in population health. Our vision is for the partnership to lead to the creation of an Institute for Evaluation Research seated at Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Community benefit

The UW School of Nursing and the health department have worked closely for decades, providing clinical experiences to students and even sharing staff and faculty. This partnership strengthens the relationship between the two institutions and ensures that the program effectively pairs cutting-edge research with innovative practices to the benefit of King County communities.

“As partners, we are not only working in concert with each other, but we are consistently translating work into policies and practice,” said Dr. Doris Boutain, UW associate professor of nursing and the John and Marguerite Walker Corbally Professor in Public Service.

“We aren’t just practicing one-on-one care, we are embedding the innovation into the system of care,” she said. “For King County residents, this means that they can experience benefits of the program more rapidly and trust that these benefits will be sustainable long-term.”

A nursing perspective

Best Starts for Kids is focused on population health improvement through a life-course perspective, areas in which nurses are particularly qualified, said Dr. Betty Bekemeier, UW professor of nursing and director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice.

“Nurses have a holistic view of individuals, families and communities, as well as the systems that support the community,” she said. “This multilayered view is how nurses perceive the world and maximize health.”

“At the same time, nurses bring a clinical understanding of how healthy starts really impact the health of kids, their families, their communities and even chronic diseases later in life,” she said. “Nurses have the ability to work across sectors, speaking the language of providers and health systems, while acting as powerful advocates for communities.”

“On one level, population health is improving because broad level health has improved, however a lot of terrible health disparities continue and some are getting worse,” Bekemeier said. “As nurses, we have a huge moral obligation, but also deep expertise, to ensure the best possible impact and effectiveness for programs like Best Starts for Kids that implement upstream prevention-related interventions that act on the inequities that create
disparities.”

Giving opportunities

Investments in the population health partnership represent an investment in the health of our community and the future of nursing science. Our greatest needs are:

Student support

Scholarships will allow the UW School of Nursing to recruit stellar DNP-Population Health Nursing and Ph.D. students to work on the Best Starts for Kids initiative and jump start their careers as public health nursing leaders and researchers.

Jacquelyn (Jax) Hermer
“I wanted to work on a systems levels
to influence policy and practice changes
that could improve the lives of young,
vulnerable families.”

Jacquelyn (Jax) Hermer, RN, IBCLC
DNP – Population Health Nursing student working with the Best Starts for Kids program on a community health assessment

 

Faculty support

A professorship will allows the school and health department to jointly hire a faculty member to direct the new institute and provide oversight to students and research.

Betty Bekemeier

“As nurses, we have a huge moral obligation,
but also deep expertise, to ensure the best possible
impact and effectiveness for programs like Best Starts
for Kids.”

Betty Bekemeier, Ph.D., MPH, RN, FAAN
UW Professor of Nursing
DNP – Population Health Nursing track lead
Director, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

 

For more information, contact Kim Cuevas at kmadden5@uw.edu or Kevin Fralicks at kgf11@uw.edu.