Caring for the Whole Child: A New Way to Finance Initiatives to Improve Children’s Health

Prepared with the support of and in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Nemours Children’s Health System

A growing recognition that socioeconomic factors affect health outcomes in significant ways is fueling new community investments and change in healthcare delivery systems. Often referred to as “social determinants of health” (SDOH), these factors refer to “the structural conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age” that have profound implications for an individual’s overall well-being. Addressing SDOH needs for children and their families is particularly important in light of the strong evidence that investments in the earliest years can have a potent impact on children’s development and their ability to thrive and grow to be healthier adults. Yet children have largely been left behind with respect to SDOH investments, in part because the financing for these initiatives has relied heavily on the potential for a relatively short-term return on investment (ROI) for the health sector.

A Children’s Health and Wellness Fund (a Fund) is a way to galvanize efforts focused on SDOH investments for children. On the most basic level, a Fund facilitates a shared financing approach that reflects the shared interest and benefits of the many sectors that serve children—including healthcare, education, child welfare and juvenile justice. A Fund can attract, collect and administer funding derived from different sources that can help finance “whole child” care.

In “Caring for the Whole Child: A New Way to Finance Initiatives to Improve Children’s Health and Well-being,” a new issue brief prepared with the support of and in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Nemours Children’s Health System, Manatt Health partner Cindy Mann and manager Mandy Ferguson describe a pathway to ensure that children and their families benefit from SDOH investments. It reviews options for designing and implementing a Children’s Health and Wellness Fund with respect to each of the issues identified below, highlighting different models that can address the core components of a Fund. Critically, all these decisions require leadership from and close collaboration with the community to be served and a consistent and focused attention on promoting equity.

  • The overall framework for the Fund and the activities it supports
  • Fund responsibilities and mechanisms for oversight
  • Potential sources of funding
  • Program accountability and evaluation

To access the full issue brief, click here.

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