Fostering Social and Emotional Health through Pediatric Primary Care: Common Threads to Transform Everyday Practice and Systems
In 2017, several leading national foundations joined together to launch Pediatrics Supporting Parents (PSP), an initiative designed to support partnerships between pediatric primary care providers and parents to protect and promote the social and emotional development of young children. The foundation consortium engaged the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to take a deeper look at what is currently being done and what may be possible in the pediatric well-child visit (ages 0-3) and pediatric primary care settings to promote positive outcomes around social and emotional development, the parent-child relationship, and parents’ mental health, which is a critical mediator of the parent-child relationship. In this report, these outcomes are referred to collectively as “social and emotional development.” The report describes the findings from CSSP’s qualitative program analysis of the common practices used by innovative primary care sites implementing a variety of evidence-supported programs.
As CSSP visited implementation sites and talked with program developers, they looked and listened for the common practices that sites use to promote the social and emotional development of young children and the parent-child relationship. They tried to understand not only the family experience but also the policies, resources, and infrastructure that supported successful implementation. Fourteen common practices were observed across three categories of actions pediatric primary care providers can take: (1) nurture parents’ competence and confidence; (2) connect families to additional supports to promote healthy social and emotional development and address stressors; and (3) develop the care team and clinic infrastructure.
The strategies used to implement the practices varied among sites, reflecting their unique context and strengths. However, there was a common thread that ran through the practices: strong, strengths-based, trusting, and humble relationships among and between parents, the care team, and the community are essential for promoting the social and emotional development of young children. CSSP observed an intentional focus on developing and nurturing relationships throughout the program delivery and practices, reflected in interactions with families, the collaboration among the care team, and the building of community partnerships.