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Children's National Health System Studies Impact of Parent Navigators for Discharged NICU Patients

Karen Fratantoni

Washington, DC - Karen Fratantoni, MD, MPH, leads the Children’s National Health System research team that has received a $2 million contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study how parent navigators can help families and children with fragile medical conditions successfully manage the transition from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to the home.

Dr. Fratantoni will assess the impact of Children’s Parent Navigator Program in the NICU, that would expand the role of the existing Parent Navigator Program in Children’s Diana L. and Stephen A. Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health. The Goldberg Center currently provides a medical home to children with complex special healthcare needs. No previous studies have evaluated the effects of long-term peer support on the ability of families transitioning from the NICU to achieve self-efficacy and infant health.  

“We believe NICU graduates and their caregivers would benefit from peer-to-peer support provided by parent navigators after discharge,” says Dr. Fratantoni. “We anticipate that this simple intervention will increase self-efficacy and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in caregivers, in turn resulting in improved health outcomes for the infant.”

Dr. Fratantoni and her team at Children’s National were selected from 490 applications by PCORI, an independent, non-profit organization that funds research aimed at providing patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with evidence-based information needed to make better informed healthcare decisions. The Children’s National team was named for the three-year contract, pending issuance of a formal award. The team was selected through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals.

The Patient Navigator Program at Children’s National was founded by Cara Biddle, MD, MPH, a Children’s National pediatrician, who launched the program in 2009. The program employs parents of children with special healthcare needs to help families in similar situations navigate through the healthcare system.  

More than 400,000 newborns in the U.S. require neonatal intensive care for a host of issues, including prematurity, congenital anomalies, or complex medical conditions. Children classified with special healthcare needs are at an increased risk for chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional problems, and need extra health-related services.

“Children who face these chronic conditions are growing in number and require complicated medical services that can be intimidating for many new parents. They can be served greatly by parent navigators,” says Dr. Fratantoni.  “We need to see how effective this intervention can be. If it is successful, it could be replicated elsewhere.”

PCORI officials praised the proposal from Children’s National.
“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our healthcare knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” says PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with Children’s National Health System to share the results.”

Contact: Joe Cantlupe at 202-476-4500. 

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