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Connecting families with social services can reduce child hospitalizations

Addressing a family’s needs to improve health care has been a frequent topic of discussion, and a new investigation examines whether an in-person navigation service can decrease acute health care utilization.

There has been research into whether certain interventions help families get access to needed and necessary care. A new investigation in JAMA Network Open examines whether an in-person navigation service intervention that also addresses a family’s social needs decreases child health care utilization.1

Investigators did a secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial that involved families seen at primary and urgent care clinics attached to 2 safety-net hospitals in northern California. The participating families were assigned either to an in-person navigator intervention or active control, which was the family being given written information about local resources, to tackle the family’s social needs. For families in the intervention group, there was telephone, email, or in-person follow-up for up to 3 months.

There were 1300 caregivers enrolled in the study. Most of the caregivers were women and a majority spoke English. Most of the children were aged 0 to 5 years and had Hispanic ethnicity. Four-hundred-sixty-two of the children were in excellent health. Roughly 65% of the families were recruited into the study from urgent care. Overall, 637 families were in the in-person navigator group and 663 were in the active control group. No difference in the risk of an emergency department visit was seen between the 2 groups. However, the children who were in the in-person navigator group had a decreased risk of hospitalization within 12 months, which made them 69% less likely to be hospitalized than children in the active control group.

The researchers concluded that their findings strengthen the understanding that trying to address the social needs of a family can help improve health and reduce acute health care utilization.





1.    Pantell MS, Hessler D, Long D, et al. Effects of in-person navigation to address family social needs on child health care utilization: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e206445. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.6445