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Family Stress Grant Summary - Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect often confer short- and long-term impairment of the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children. The proposed project builds on promising data from previous randomized control trials, based on application of a screening tool in primary care pediatric practice that identifies the Family Stressors and use of harsh punishment, which are known to put children at risk for child abuse and neglect.


Pediatric check-ups are ideal for early identification because of nearly universal and repeated access. However, these visits, also known as “child health supervision” have been charged with a heavy public health burden of early detection and preventive counseling for a wide variety of issues related to health risks, safety, and promoting child development during narrow time constraints. We have previously built a system to assist with this challenge by off-loading the burden of information gathering to an online pre-visit platform called CHADIS that has been used by over one million parents already. However, when the visit scope is broadened to addressing sensitive family stressors, the challenge for PCPs becomes one of clinical interviewing skills, that, in part, is best addressed with the evidence-based approach known as motivational interviewing (MI). PCPs have not been trained for MI and it typically takes longer than the time allotted for the visit. The innovation proposed here is to collect data online before visits to not only identify problems, but also divide the interview process so that the computer collects data in a way that guides the PCP during the visit with details and suggested words (“teleprompters”) for the human elements of empathy and reflective listening that can be delivered briefly. In addition, the innovation also reduces documentation burden and creates follow-up psycho-education and tracking.

This new Family Stress Module supports not only a single problem visit but also acts across visits in creating the psychosocial orientation for parents of children of all ages to confide in the PCP as well “anticipatory guidance” reinforced by “MemoryBook” and text messages. Electronic linking will be created with local referral resources, such as agencies or therapists, so when a referral is made two-way communication is facilitated as well as tracking of appointment completion with the parent’s consent. There are no other clinical process support systems of similar scope and none connected to an electronic system of care bridging medical and social domains. The project involves first refining a prototype with parent and doctor feedback and then conducting a cluster randomized intervention trial.


Hypothesized outcomes are lower rates of child abuse and neglect reports, less harsh punishment, as well as improved developmental and behavioral outcome in the intervention group. Parent satisfaction with the enhanced clinical process and collateral benefits, such as lower rates of missed visits and delayed vaccines will also be assessed.

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