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Children’s Health Appreciation Day

As adults, our personal and work lives have been upended by COVID-19. For children, the upheaval has been dramatic as well, with the loss of much of the structure (and at least some of the learning) that school provides, as well as time with friends, drive-by graduations, and an abrupt suspension of the camaraderie of sports teams, the arts, music, and more.

Routine access to behavioral, oral, and physical health care is one of the many losses children face when they are sheltering in place. Everything from well-child visits to the immunizations required to enter school or to navigate adolescent years can lag behind, exposing children to even more dangers beyond COVID-19.

At Salud Para La Gente, staff worked hard to keep childhood immunizations on track, prioritizing well child visits for 2-year-olds and younger when services were disrupted by clinic closures. As services began to re-open, Salud increased the age for well child visits to 5 years and younger and for 11-year-olds – the age when back-to-school shots are needed. Staff also shifted many traditional in-person visits to video visits via Zoom, including parent education, developmental screening, and lactation support services. Video visits allow Salud staff to observe and provide immediate feedback to patients on breastfeeding practices or observing children’s developmental milestones.

A particularly innovative effort has been coordinating newborn visits for babies born to COVID-19 positive mothers. The key to making sure the newborn has a successful visit — even more critical because newborns and their mothers are being discharged earlier after delivery — is creating space for newborns their mothers to be seen safely and to coordinate care and communication among the many departments involved. Everyone has to be on the same page and follow shared protocols for caring for newborns: the hospital, clinic operations, provider, nursing, lactation, OBGYN, and public health — and more! Salud in-takes the family through its outdoor respiratory clinic and has created isolated space inside the clinic for the newborns to be seen with their mothers. A non-COVID parent is asked to bring the child to the clinic, but that is not always feasible. Once in the clinic, the provider and MA don full PPE to complete the visit. This has required an extensive amount of coordination among the care team and operations.

As the medical home for so many young families in our County, the Safety Net clinics are keeping a close eye on children’s health and finding ways to reach them with the early care that can help them grow up into healthy adults.

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