They are the decisions leaders at all children’s hospitals must face: With a never-ending list of high-priority projects and finite resources, how do you select which initiatives to push forward?
“There is a lot of work that can be done and it is good work, but we want to make sure we are doing the right work,” says Marisha DiCarlo, Ph.D., M.P.H., vice president of Community Engagement, Advocacy and Health at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. “When we're doing the right work, it improves health outcomes—that is where our team is at its best.”
DiCarlo applies this concept to her team’s work in addressing food insecurity in the community. There are countless “good” efforts Arkansas Children’s could undertake to improve nutrition among its children, “but when they align with what's the right thing to move the needle on children’s health, that's where we want to be working,” DiCarlo says.
Key to differentiating the “right” projects from those that are simply “good,” according to DiCarlo, begins with thorough research into the problem and its possible solutions. “We are data-informed, but I don't just mean numbers—we also look at the qualitative feedback,” DiCarlo says.
In devising the hospital’s strategy around improving food security, that meant an extensive needs assessment of the state’s more than 700,000 children, including nearly two dozen focus groups with parents, educators, community leaders and medical providers.
“We're focused on this initiative because our data, patient families, the community and everyone else is pointing us in this direction,” DiCarlo says. “It tells us that if we make the right investment with the right energy and the right program, we can really make a difference over the long term.”
Read more about Children’s Arkansas’ multi-tiered approach to addressing the growing problem of food insecurity in its community.