UAB, Children’s of Alabama to be part of Pediatric Pandemic Network

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 11:59 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2022 at 12:00 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine and Children’s of Alabama will be part of the forefront of pandemic responses for children, adolescents and families.

The Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine have joined a network of children’s hospitals across the country that will coordinate on the response of future pandemics and other disasters.

Through a $29 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Pediatric Pandemic Network will focus on unique needs and challenges to children during pandemic and disasters. Leaders said part of that response is ensuring that health equity is a priority of emergency planning.

In September 2021, HRSA launched the Regional PPN by funding five pediatric hospitals to support the planning and preparation of children’s hospitals to respond to a global health threat. The new grant doubles the size and reach of the network. UAB and Children’s of Alabama join lead institution Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and Seattle Children’s.

Mitch Cohen, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and Tamera Coyne-Beasley, M.D., vice chair for Community Engagement, serve as co-principal investigators at UAB.

“We are delighted to work with our colleagues at other leading children’s hospitals and oversee the efforts to ensure that local and national responses to pandemics properly address the needs of children, adolescents and families, especially those of color,” Cohen said.

The hospitals recognize that, while the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the entire world, the pediatric population has been challenged by a lack of established coordination among pediatric care providers. In addition to addressing health equity, the network funding facilitates the following:

  • Establishing pathways to gather and disseminate research-informed insights into how to care for children in a future pandemic to both medical providers and community organizations.
  • Developing a telehealth infrastructure to support the care of acutely ill children and expand mental health access.
  • Expanding pediatric-focused emergency preparedness and planning with a focus on behavioral health, social support and educational services, all of which are typically provided by community organizations.

“As the current pandemic has proved to the world, pandemics and public health crises magnify preexisting environmental, health, social and economic inequities,” said Joelle Simpson, M.D., principal investigator of the grant, division chief of Emergency Medicine and medical director of Emergency Preparedness at Children’s National. “Communities of color not only feel the impact of pandemics and disasters far more severely than others, but also have more difficulty obtaining aid and assistance. If the needs of vulnerable populations are not addressed in emergency planning, the national disaster preparedness strategy could fail for all.”


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