Elevating the Voices of Our Community

May 24, 2023 by Tesa White, BS & Desiree M. de la Torre, MPH, MBA

Community engagement is a key component of the work that we do at Children’s National. Community engagement refers to the process of ensuring that the people who are most impacted by physical health, mental health and social health challenges have a say in designing and implementing solutions to these issues as partners in change.  Engaging the community in the development and implementation of our community health improvement efforts is critical to our success.  

For years, Children’s National has engaged with patients and their families and the community through our Patient and Family Advisory Council and other department led councils and boards. These councils and boards provide an opportunity for us to hear directly from the community around their experience with the care received at our sites. Unfortunately, specific sectors of our community are not well represented in council and board membership. In 2021, a planning committee comprised of staff from the Child Health Advocacy Institute, Family Services, Patient Experience, and Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health, formed the Community Health Advisory Council. This council is comprised solely of parents and caregivers that reside in Wards 7 and 8 in the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County, Maryland. Engagement with parents and caregivers that reside in this geographic area is important since their neighborhoods are the focus of our Community Health Improvement Plan 

The Community Health Advisory Council conducts the following:  

  • Provides feedback and input regarding their experience with the delivery of quality and safe care, including how community challenges, family barriers and cultural traditions impact care  
  • Advises on community health priorities, initiatives and practices that will achieve health equity and healthy communities  
  • Provides leadership and strategic direction for community health planning in the DC region, which includes the health system’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), and other strategic efforts to promote strong population health, health equity, and racial justice  
  • Identifies and recommends strategic partnerships or collaborations, particularly in the DC region, that can strengthen the Children’s National and HSC Health Care System (HSC) community health improvement activities  
  • Advises on the advancement of innovative approaches to evaluate, measure, and communicate the impact of Children’s National community health improvement strategies  

To date, the council has had 8 meetings with 8 members and discussed a variety of topics such as social determinants of health, patient experience data, and principles of trustworthiness. During a meeting focused on our Equity Impact Review Guide, a member shared that they would like to see the equity work move forward despite barriers that may be encountered and they want to see the difference or outcomes that this review makes in the community. One of the key components of our work is transparency. While we focus on particular topics, we are sure to circle back to the group to let them know what was shared with hospital staff and how their input has shaped the work moving forward.  

We not only receive input and feedback from council members, but seek to educate them on topics of interest. The Council will also receive training on how to be effective council members including problem solving and storytelling skills. 

In a member survey, 100% of respondents shared that they want to maintain their membership and believe that the council is operating in agreement with the council documents (e.g. council charter). 

Moving forward, we will continue to keep this council abreast of our community health improvement efforts and engage them in decision making when developing our CHIP action steps.  

As employees partnering with this council, we are excited about the meaningful relationships we are building with our parents and caregivers and their leadership and strategic contributions to our organizational and community health efforts.  

If you are a parent or caregiver or know of a parent or caregiver that receives care at a Children’s National or HSC site and reside in Ward 7 and 8 or Prince George’s County and are interested in joining the council, email communitybenefit@childrensnational.org for more information.   

About the author

Tesa White, BS

Program Manager for Community Benefit within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital

Desiree de la Torre
Desiree de la Torre, MPH, MBA

Director of Community Affairs & Population Health Improvement within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital