New CHOP Research Center Will Address Pediatric Health Disparities

May 1 2015

New CHOP Research Center Will Address Pediatric Health Disparities

health disparitiesThough clinicians are tasked with doing their very best to extend the same level of care to all patients, the fact remains disparities exist in care and health outcomes, especially in pediatric patients. A new center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute will seek to support these most vulnerable patients by conducting research to better understand the root of disparities — be they racial, gender-based, or caused by geography.

The Center for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Disparities Research (CPHD) will work to “identify, describe, and understand disparities in care and care practices among perinatal and pediatric patients.”

The new Center will be led by Scott Lorch, MD, MSCE, the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neonatology. Dr. Lorch is also director of the Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Program in the Division of Neonatology and Deputy Director of the Center for Outcomes Research at CHOP, as well as an associate professor of Pediatrics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Research in adult patients has shown that there are extensive disparities in the care received by minority patients, particularly Hispanic and African-American patients,” said Dr. Lorch. “CPHD, through multidisciplinary academic and clinical research, aims to understand how these same disparities apply to the perinatal population, where the mother-fetal interaction is of primary importance, and the pediatric population, where family/mother-child interaction is of primary importance.”

Dr. Lorch is an ideal choice to lead the new Center, because his work — focused on health disparities, the economics and geography of healthcare, and perinatal epidemiology — dovetails nicely with the Center’s mission. In addition to currently overseeing several federally funded investigations, Dr. Lorch has contributed to recent papers in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, JAMA Pediatrics, and The American Journal of Public Health.

Other faculty associated with the new Center include Nadia Dowshen, MD; Kristin Feemster, MD, MPH, MSHP; Chén Kenyon, MD, MSHP; and Saba Khan, MD. The Center’s Associate Director is Ashley E. Martin, MPH, while Molly Passarella, MS, will perform statistical programming for the CPHD.

And though it was only recently established, the CPHD has already announced its first round of pilot project funding for junior investigators associated with CHOP. Designed to support pediatric and perinatal health disparities projects, the CPHD Pilot Grant Program “aims to engage fellows and junior faculty in HD research and to assist established faculty in developing new lines of research in this area,” said Martin.

The CPHD has also partnered with a number of community organizations and other partners to advance its goals of identifying and addressing pediatric and perinatal disparities. They range from the governmental to those in higher education, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and nonprofit organizations like Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

Indeed, one of Dr. Lorch’s current investigations, on obstetric (OB) unit closures in Philadelphia, involved working with obstetric department chairs, leaders of private obstetric groups, and others to understand the impact OB unit closures can have on patients and hospital.

All of the Center for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Disparities Research’s work seeks to better understand and confront disparities. Ultimately, Dr. Lorch said, with its work the Center hopes to inspire the next generation of pediatric medical researchers to conduct health disparities research, and to start a dialogue about pediatric and perinatal health disparities, with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes for patients.

To learn more about the Center for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Disparities Research, see the April issue of Bench to Bedside.