Research Programs : Demonstration Projects

The Health Spark Project

Health Spark is a community-based, participatory research project designed to improve child health and health care. In January of 2004, the Health Foundation of South Florida and the Ounce of Prevention Fund-Florida provided funding to the Mailman Center for Child Development to assess the health of three-year-old children enrolled in federally qualified childcare centers in underserved areas in Miami-Dade County. The goals of this initiative include: (a) to improve the health of children through screening, referral, and support for expanding the capacity of the medical homes in targeted, underserved areas of Miami-Dade County; and (b) to enhance readiness for school by understanding the contribution of health issues to school readiness.

In Health Spark I, 800 three-year- old children in federally qualified childcare centers were surveyed to gather information regarding child and maternal health, access to care, and quality of primary care. In this first phase of Health Spark, we learned that most children did have access to a medical home, though the quality varied by location, race/ethnicity of the child, maternal health literacy, and child health insurance status. We also found much higher rates of asthma, obesity, special health care needs, and unmet health care needs than among similar populations in the US. Most importantly, child care center directors were eager to collaborate in future endeavors to improve child and maternal health. Our plan is to repeat the Health Spark assessment, in collaboration with community partners, at the end of the current five-year cycle to assess progress in our community on these outcomes.

In 2006, the second phase of Health Spark II: Improving Asthma for Preschool Children was based on information from the first phase of HealthSpark and on input from our Community Advisory Board. The focus of the project was on asthma care in child care centers by supporting each center’s effort to meet NIH guidelines to be an “asthma-friendly” child care center. This community-based, controlled study with 51 centers tested the effectiveness of translating best-practices to an ethnically-diverse, underserved population of preschool children. In future phases of HealthSpark, we will attempt to meet community needs for obesity prevention and behavioral management issues and we will use the Health Spark survey to evaluate the impact of our program on the health of children in our community.