A program that aims to ensure our youngest Kansas City residents stay healthy has received national recognition and $25,000 in funding.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, announced the KidsCARE collaboration between Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Head Start and Swope Health Services was among 20 winners of the Promoting Pediatric Primary Prevention (P4) Challenge, a nationwide competition to increase pediatric vaccination rates and well-child visits.  

Challenge projects generated more than 52,000 pediatric well-child visits and nearly 23,000 immunizations nationally.

“The P4 Challenge provided our Head Start team the opportunity to focus on getting children back on track with their well-child visits,” said Jovanna Rohs, director of Early Learning at MARC. “Our program values the link between health and school readiness and believes that healthy children are more successful in school. Unfortunately, families put off taking children in for their regularly scheduled well-child visits and routine vaccinations during the pandemic.”

For the challenge, MARC Head Start and Swope Health Services collaborated on the KidsCARE project to provide various access points to health care, including school-based clinics, mobile health units, telehealth and health fairs at two pilot sites. Plans are now in place to expand the reach of KidsCARE by scaling to other sites in the MARC Head Start network, as well as other community-based early learning providers.

“This project exemplifies the power of intentional collaboration and coordination of health services with community partners – in this case, Swope Health and Diversity Telehealth LLC,” Rohs said.

The KidsCARE collaboration provides increased access to well-child visits for pediatric patients and utilizes an app developed by Diversity Telehealth LLC, called COME ON NOW! It is a HIPPA-compliant telehealth platform that provides remote access to dental, behavioral and mental health services. The application gives parents and guardians the opportunity to schedule and receive health care appointments at their convenience. The KidsCARE program uses the app to make it easier for parents to schedule well-child visits, immunizations and integrated dental, optometry and behavioral health access and services and allows for two-way communication between families and providers.

KidsCARE is Swope Health’s program to deliver pediatric primary care, dental and behavioral health care together in the community. KidsCARE uses telehealth and mobile medical clinics for Head Start community- and school-based locations. The clinic in the P4 Challenge program is located in Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center, and mobile units were deployed to the Excelsior Springs School District Head Start Program. Both sites provide early childhood services for children and families and are members of the MARC Head Start network.

The target population for the P4 Challenge intervention were children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start (ages birth to 5) who are uninsured, have no medical home or have not had a well-child exam in the past year. Evaluation showed the KidsCARE pilot sites, both urban and rural, had increased immunization and well-child visit rates over the previous program year. The percent of children with immunizations and well-child visits at the two pilot sites were higher than all other MARC Head Start network sites. In non-pilot sites, 88% of children are immunized (compared to 98%) and 78% of children are up-to-date with well-child visits (compared to 89%). During the P4 Challenge, 197 well-child exams were completed. Six children received follow-up eye care and 308 dental exams were completed.

In addition to receiving the award, the KidsCARE project was one of three projects highlighted during the national announcement webinar on Jan. 31.