When a pediatrician, David Rubin, MD, MSCE, and a lawyer, Kathleen Noonan, JD, joined forces 10 years ago to create a new research entity at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it was a harbinger of the strategy that would make it an effective data-driven advocate for children’s health.
Rubin and Noonan saw a disconnect between those who researched programs and practices to improve the health of vulnerable children and the policymakers who made decisions about those same programs and practices.
So as the co-founders built PolicyLab, they took a novel approach: They asked policymakers in government, healthcare organizations and child-serving agencies for input on research topics. “We engaged the stakeholders up front,” Rubin says. “That ensured we answered the questions that were important to them.”
PolicyLab also created an expansive circle within CHOP. In addition to core physicians, its investigators included experts in public health, social work, policy, psychology, law, biostatistics, communications and more. The variety in perspectives leads to innovative problem-solving and, most importantly, recommendations grounded in evidence. CHOP has embraced PolicyLab results and launched programs addressing areas of need.
For example, because of key work many researchers did on improving how we deliver care to families, the Department of Pediatrics created a Population Health Innovation Program to build capacity and sustainability for programs aligned with PolicyLab research. In response to evidence that young children’s behavioral problems are not being treated early, before problems become more severe, it started PriCARE, a positive parenting program offered in the primary care setting so parents and caregivers can learn effective ways to modify their child’s behavior.
With support from the Pew Charitable Trusts and others, PolicyLab — which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2018 — focuses its research on those with lower socio-economic status, in underserved areas and with chronic conditions. PolicyLab’s existence has meant a decade of meaningful, data-informed advocacy for improving children’s health.