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Poised for Life Program to Enhance Health Equity in Children


Poised for Life Program to Enhance Health Equity in Children

Children in the Kansas City area have different health outcomes based upon the conditions where they live, play, and learn. A sobering fact is that there is an estimated 15-year difference in life expectancy based upon where these children live, and the disparities among Kansas City’s children can lead to stark differences in their health, educational, and behavioral outcomes.

At the root of much of this health disparity are social constructs – also called social determinants of health – that have a significant influence and impact on the lives of children.

Children’s Mercy is in the early phases of launching a program dedicated to developing long-term, enterprise-wide community collaborations to address the social determinants of health and healthcare of children living in the Kansas City area. The Poised for Life Program will integrate research, faculty and staff development, education, advocacy, and community partnership to serve not only area children and families but the research interests of Children’s Mercy faculty as well.

The program, led by Robert H. Lane, MD, MS, Executive Vice President and Physician-in-Chief at Children’s Mercy, aligns with elements of the organization’s strategic plan dedicated to integrating research throughout the enterprise and prioritizing community health improvement efforts that build out a framework for addressing social determinants of health for children.  

“If research is part of your culture, as it is at Children’s Mercy, then ultimately our efforts need to include ways to do more for your community and meet them where their needs are,” said Dr. Lane. “We are fortunate that many of our faculty members are passionate about any effort that benefits our community – and their passion is the driver for this program. Integrating research not only into what we do every day at Children’s Mercy but also within our community is critical to making a difference in the lives of the children and families we serve while while also promoting learning and discovery among our faculty.”

Developing and launching the program is an inclusive endeavor involving input and insight from faculty members and the community, Dr. Lane added. At Children’s Mercy, Dr. Lane plans for a variety of working groups to address topics that are critical to the ultimate success of the program, such as the program’s infrastructure and strategies to further strengthen the cohesion of research in the enterprise and with the greater community.

“We are early in our journey with the program, and it is important that our faculty and department leaders have input on our direction during every step of that journey,” said Dr. Lane.

As we develop and refine the Poised for Life Program, we also need to ensure that we have strategies in place to educate and support our faculty in how to be better present in our communities and how to advocate in partnership with these communities.

Robert H. Lane, MD, MS

The Poised for Life Program will also work with national scientific experts and external community advisory boards to identify, prioritize and support the most promising collaborative and cross-disciplinary research approaches to enhance health equity in children within the context of social determinants of health.

A key element to this endeavor involves ongoing partnerships with Kansas City and regional communities to foster interactions, inform advocacy, demonstrate mutual benefit, and determine the acceptability of possible research projects and interventions. This initiative also includes integrated community involvement and input for prioritizing, designing and implementing projects, and effectively disseminating the results throughout the community.

The new program offers a palette for further developing Children’s Mercy faculty – some of whom are just beginning their research journeys – in not only research but community service and advocacy as well. Participation in the program will offer faculty members creative opportunities to make an impact on their communities through meaningful, impactful research while simultaneously growing their careers.

Robert H. Lane, MD, MS

“As we develop and refine the Poised for Life Program, we also need to ensure that we have strategies in place to educate and support our faculty in how to be better present in our communities and how to advocate in partnership with these communities,” said Dr. Lane. “A cornerstone of this faculty-focused aspect of the program involves creating the infrastructure for their scholarly success through resources like a Research Learning Center, research programs, mentorship and pipelines of research for Children’s Mercy.”


As Children’s Mercy continues to develop the Poised for Life Program, Dr. Lane and the program’s work group members are working with community leaders on how the presence of Children’s Mercy in the community can be most beneficial. In addition, the team is developing an infrastructure involving the hospital’s clinical academic departments, the Children’s Mercy Research Institute, and communities while developing forums throughout the enterprise to encourage cross-departmental and multidisciplinary collaborations, research proposals and training opportunities.

In addition to Dr. Lane, the members of the Poised for Life Work Group at Children’s Mercy include Jeffery D. Colvin, MD, FAAP, director of Research for General Academic Pediatrics (co-chair); Jessica L. Bettenhausen, MD, FAAP, director of Research for Pediatric Hospital Medicine (co-chair); Andrea Bradley-Ewing, MPA, MA, senior director of Community Engagement Research, Health Services Outcomes Research; Jordan A. Carlson, PhD, director of Community Engagement Research for the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition; Kathryn A. Keeler, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon; Tolulope A. Oyetunji, MD, MPH, FACS, FAAP, pediatric surgeon and director of Health Outcomes Research and the Quality Improvement & Surgical Equity Research Center; Bridgette L. Jones, MD, MSCR, of the Division of Pediatric Allergy & Immunology; and Kimberly A. Randall, MD, MSc, of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

The Poised for Life Work Group is developing a white paper detailing the need for program in the Kansas City area and will work inclusively with Children’s Mercy faculty, staff and the community on developing, refining and launching the program. This white paper will focus on the “why” of the Poised for Life effort. Subsequent efforts will include faculty and staff from across the Children’s Mercy enterprise and will focus on the “how.”

top left: Jeffrey Colvin, Jessica Bettenhausen, middle row: Tolulope Oyetunji, Andrea Bradley-Ewing, bottom: Jordan Carlson