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The Sandra L. Fenwick Institute for Pediatric Health Equity and Inclusion is a Boston Children’s Hospital initiative that advances pediatric health equity locally, nationally, and around the world. The institute is named in honor of Ms. Fenwick, Boston Children’s’ former CEO, who retired in early 2021 after more than 20 years in leadership roles at the hospital.

As a leader in pediatric health care, Boston Children’s is committed to ensuring that all children receive the care they need and deserve. The Fenwick Institute carries out this work in three primary areas: health equity research, inclusion, and public policy.

a bunch of legs of a group of people sitting in a shelter waiting room.

Research in action

When a state policy made it harder for families to find shelter, clinicians’ observations paired with data and community partnerships helped change the policy. 

The Fenwick Institute is led by Valerie Ward MD, MPH, Boston Children’s Senior Vice President, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Pediatric Radiologist and the first Sandra Labas Fenwick Chair in Equity and Inclusion.

With the creation of the Fenwick Institute we have the opportunity to extend our vital work around pediatric health equity, diversity, and inclusion to the national stage.

Dr. Kevin Churchwell, President and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital

Health equity research

kids holding hands on the playground

How health equity enhanced research

“When we changed our recruitment methods, we found more subjects from every subset of our patient population willing to enroll.”

Health disparities stem from a complex interplay between social, economic, and institutional factors that create barriers to care. Yet, little research into such barriers exists. The Fenwick Institute shapes emerging research into pediatric health disparities with the aim of ensuring equitable health care access, delivery, and outcomes for all children.

Health equity research initiatives

  • Missed care opportunities – a multi-center, two-year study focused on factors that contribute to missed medical appointments and the development of culturally effective interventions.
  • Patient navigation health equity project – builds on a successful collaborative effort between the Office of Health Equity and Orthopedic Center to recruit diverse families to participate in a study of brachial plexus birth injury. The current study aims to improve families’ understanding of brachial plexus injury and their adherence to treatment, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
  • Seed grants – will provide funding for health equity research projects with translational, actionable interventions.

Inclusion

An important component of health equity is ensuring patients and families can receive care from caregivers of diverse backgrounds. The Fenwick Institute builds on Boston Children’s position as a leader among children’s hospitals to inspire greater diversity and inclusion among health care leaders and providers.

Inclusion initiatives

  • Fenwick Fellows – a leadership development and career advancement program for mid-career professionals. Includes seminars focused on career advancement, career coaches/mentors, and group meetings featuring select speakers and readings on professional development.

Public policy

True health equity requires changing the policies that reinforce health disparities within communities and institutions. The Fenwick Institute will extend Boston Children’s leadership in health equity, diversity, and inclusion by translating research findings into actionable public policy recommendations. To this end, we are:

  • initiating and collaborating on new policy and related research opportunities
  • working to develop a national community focused on pediatric health equity policy and research

Public policy initiatives

The Fenwick Institute hosted its first Pediatric Health Equity Research and Policy Symposium in November 2022. The second annual symposium was held Sept. 29, 2023, and featured keynote speaker Dr. Robert Roswell, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Professor of Cardiology and Science Education at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. We also hosted an insightful fireside chat about the state of pediatric mental health with Dr. Kevin Churchwell, the President and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Kevin Simon, child psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the City of Boston. Other highlights of the Symposium included presentations from researchers from across the country on their original child health equity research. The Symposium also included two interactive workshops from experts in the field: 1) Using the Childhood Opportunity Index for health equity research; and 2) Translating your research for child health equity advocacy.

SAVE THE DATE: The next Annual Pediatric Health Equity Research and Policy Symposium is scheduled for September 12-13, 2024 at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Current research: Reporting and Representation of Participant Race and Ethnicity in NIH-Funded Pediatric Clinical Trials

Recruiting diverse participants who represent the general population in clinical trials is a key component of generalizable research findings.

To better understand how well diverse children are represented in pediatric clinical trials, we published a study examining participants of National Institutes of Health-funded US pediatric clinical trials. Specifically, we analyzed how many studies reported race and ethnicity as well as comparing participants’ reported race and ethnicity to the U.S. population. Overall we found there was wide variability in the reporting of race and ethnicity in publications of these studies. We were pleased to see trial participation by historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups was higher than the expected proportion based on the US child population distribution.