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RI HEALTH

Hasbro Children’s Hospital selected to help improve equity in children’s health care

12 pediatric hospitals will work together to create a guide to addressing racism, identifying health-related social needs, and partnering more effectively with families

Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — Hasbro Children’s Hospital is one of 12 pediatric facilities chosen to help transform child health care delivery in the U.S.

The Providence-based hospital, which is owned by Lifespan Corp., is participating in a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will work with the Center for Health Care Strategies to develop ways to make child health care “more equitable and family focused.” Each hospital in the program will receive a $2,500 stipend.

Representatives from the 12 hospitals will meet once a month for nine months to create a guide to making pediatric health care more equitable. The work will focus on adopting anti-racist practices to advance health equity, co-creating equitable partnerships with families and providers, and identifying family strengths and health-related social needs to “promote resilience.”

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“There’s no manual on how to be ‘anti-racist,’” said Hasbro pediatrician Dr. Olutosin Ojugbele. “There’s no background or evidence-based research that other areas of studies have. This is a newer, academic process. And the first steps within change is thinking about how we do it.”

Ojugbele had led the hospital’s application process for the joint initiative, and Hasbro Children’s Hospital the only health care facility in New England selected for this program. The facility cares for more than 10,000 children in Rhode Island, many of them low-income or of color.

Ojugbele said the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the social unrest that followed forced the country to have conversations that were not happening before, including in the health care space.

“Doctors are used to talking a lot and giving advice and not having a dialog or really listening. It’s one thing that we’ve done well [at Hasbro Children’s Hospital] to have more communication, but that’s still a work in progress,” said Dr. Carol Lewis, who is the medical director of Hasbro’s pediatric primary care. She’s also the founder and director of the hospital’s Refugee Health Program, which offers access to primary care for a population with an increased health burden and barriers to accessing care.

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Dr. Carol Lewis is the medical director of Hasbro Children's Hospital's Pediatric Primary Care. She is also the founder and director of the HCH Refugee Health Program.Lifespan Corporation

In this upcoming collaboration, Ojugbele and Lewis said one of the main changes will be that they plan on surveying patients and families about how they want to receive child care instead of just the “normal health questions.”

In addition, Ojugbele said Habro is in the process of creating a “multi-disciplinary anti-racist curriculum” that will serve to educate faculty and staff around cultural competency and what it means to “move toward equitable health for all patients.”

“It’s not enough to say ‘we are not racist.’ Anti-racism means really working toward dismantling the historical structures, especially within the context of health care that have oppressed and marginalized people for hundreds of years,” said Ojugbele.

Lewis said there are a number of other health disparities that need to be addressed in Rhode Island, such as how many low-income families and people of color don’t always have access to clean and accessible parks, cannot afford healthy or fresh food, and are more likely to struggle with childhood obesity. They said while this nine-month program may not have immediate changes for families in Rhode Island, they said it’s a good stepping stone.

“We’re not ending racism in nine months. It’s not going to happen. We know there are health disparities. It’s not a debate anymore,” said Lewis. “But this is the first time that in my 30 years of practice that we are actually stopping and asking the question, and have institutional support. It’s the first step.”

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.