February 15, 2002

VCH expanding advocacy efforts

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Dr. Arnold Strauss

VCH expanding advocacy efforts

Dr. Gerald Hickson

Dr. Gerald Hickson

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital has long been a shinning light for child advocacy. Since its creation in 1970, the hospital has maintained a vigil over children’s issues and served as a guiding beacon for children’s issues.

Currently, Tennessee ranks 44th out of 50 states in the overall health ranking of children’s health care and the condition of children, according to a study conducted by W.F. Fox, University of Tennessee-Knoxville Center for Business and Economic Research. And, according to a recent “Kids Count” report, the state ranked towards the bottom (below 40) in all categories relating to children.

These statistics, coupled with the increasing complexity of health care, have led Vanderbilt to expand its role as an advocate for children throughout Middle Tennessee.

“It is our vision for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to be viewed as the advocate and leader in the community when it comes to children’s issues,” explained Dr. Arnold Strauss, James C. Overall Professor and Chair of Pediatrics and VCH director.

Strauss has chosen Dr. Gerald Hickson, professor and vice chair of Pediatrics and director of General Pediatrics, and Amy Casseri, director of Pediatric Services Development, to lead the advocacy campaign.

Hickson and Casseri are co-chairing the Vanderbilt Child Advocacy Council (VCAC), which includes representation from the Vanderbilt community as well as the Middle Tennessee region. Physicians, community leaders, community child advocates, and legislative experts are among those who make up the council profile. Groups represented include the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation, the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Nashville Association of Early Youth and Children, EMS for Children, Family Voices, Nashville Area Association for the Education of Children and Youth Vanderbilt Sports Medicine, Vanderbilt Community, Neighborhood and Government Relations, VCH Marketing and Outreach, and VCH Child Life.

“We felt we could bring together Vanderbilt and community resources and develop a focused mission for child advocacy efforts,” Casseri said. “The council allows these experts to share information across boundaries and provide Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with a direction to lead child advocacy efforts.”

A three-pronged effort on advocacy will focus on governmental relations (local and state), legislative advocacy and marketing/community outreach. That coordinated and focused approach will be spearheaded by VCAC.

Members on VCAC recently participated in a retreat, where they narrowed and prioritized VCH child advocacy issues.

Those areas are currently under examination to determine if any advocacy projects are underway. When that assessment is completed, goals will be set for each program and results will be evaluated at the end of each year.

“Children have no voice,” Casseri said. “Advocacy is an important aspect of caring for children and we intend to make sure children are represented.