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Rochester Offers Unique Setting for Pediatric Research

Robert Haggerty, M.D., former Chair of Pediatrics from 1964 to 1974, engaged in a lifelong effort to promote the health of children and adolescents by establishing more effective integrated services and policies.

Continuing with this legacy, Rochester offers a unique opportunity for University researchers to directly partner with the community to investigate novel programs to improve the health of children, notes Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Pediatrics. "Because of these unique partnerships, we can develop, implement and test clinical programs in Rochester — and the community beyond — in a way you don't hear about in many other places," she noted. "Our work in the community spans many topic areas including immunization delivery, asthma, adolescent health, obesity, child development, and mental health. Research studies are funded by multiple sources including the NIH, AHRQ, CDC, and local foundations."

Halterman's research program for childhood asthma, funded by the NIH, represents a successful community collaboration that has significantly improved symptom control and reduced harmful exposures among children with asthma. It serves as a model for improved asthma care in urban communities. Through a unique, long-standing collaboration with the Rochester city school district, the program has reached many high-risk children and developed innovative methods to improve the delivery of preventive care. Over more than a decade of research, the program has enrolled hundreds of children and families in multiple clinical trials in the community and has collaborated with almost all of the schools in the city of Rochester.

Tristram Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, focused his research program on the development and testing of new community-based interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In fact, with funding from HRSA, NIH, and private foundations, the University has one of the largest research programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the nation. Studies include school partnerships that test behavioral interventions for young children with autism to improve academic and psychological outcomes; preschool-based interventions that teach communication skills to the children, and interventions that help parents manage challenging behaviors such as tantrums.

Kenneth McConnochie, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Pediatrics, has partnered with community organizations to enhance access to care within the primary care medical home using telemedicine. Telemedicine allows clinicians to assess and treat patients remotely using secure, web-based information technology. It enables children with both acute and chronic problems to be seen by a healthcare provider while the child remains at school or child care, the parent remains at work and the provider remains at their usual workplace. This model of care has been used in Rochester to provide over 14,000 visits for children and has contributed to fewer child absences due to illness, and a decrease in emergency department visits. It now serves all schools in the Rochester City School District as well as child care and child development centers with mobile telemedicine units. Research has demonstrated this care model to be well accepted by both parents and providers, and to be an effective, efficient means of enhancing equity in access to care.

It helps that "Rochester is a structured, relatively contained area that allows you to reach out and make a difference," Halterman noted. "In pediatrics there's really one system of care for children." And, as a medium-sized city, Rochester "is not so big that you can't get a handle on the population," Halterman added.

In any event, it is clear that community-based research will continue to have a top priority -- and not only in Pediatrics. As the Medical Center's strategic plan notes: "our mission of improving the health and quality of life for our patients, families and community remains paramount to our success . . . As all academic medical centers grapple with changes in clinical reimbursements, those institutions that can keep their community healthy will benefit financially."

Republished from "Research Connections", the weekly newsletter from Rob Clark, Senior Vice President for Research at the University of Rochester.