Bright Futures encourages child health professionals to focus on six core concepts. These represent an approach that engages the family and community as partners in working to improve health across the lifecourse.
The core concepts emphasize the clinical evidence base as well as the realities of working with mothers, families, and children. Bright Futures understands that health supervision must advance with changes in family, communities, and society in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner that leads to health equity and a culture of health.
Partnering with families and communities can be an effective way to promote health, reduce disparities in care, and develop realistic treatment goals. Partnership-building promotes child wellness and enhances family satisfaction with care.
In promoting optimal nutrition for infants, children, and adolescents, partnerships among health professionals, families, and communities can make a big difference. These partnerships can be especially helpful for:
A child health professional’s communication skills — particularly the ability to actively listen — increase the likelihood that a family’s needs and concerns will be heard and addressed. Active listening involves paying attention to content and meaning, responding to feelings expressed by children and their families, and noticing verbal and nonverbal cues.
Bright Futures encourages the use of interview questions to promote communication and clarify a family’s concerns.
Since child health professionals have frequent interactions with children and families, particularly in the early years, they are in a unique position to promote health and prevent illness. These encounters give health providers plenty of opportunities to observe, listen to, and recognize issues in promoting health and preventing illness. They can identify and focus on the needs and concerns of each child and family; personalize their guidance; and make use of family and community resources.
In today’s health care environment, time management skills are essential for providing effective health supervision. Today’s health professionals face intense pressures to provide health care for increasing numbers of children and their families, including many with complex medical and behavioral problems. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and others have recommended providing expanded health promotion and preventive services to meet these challenges.
An effective way to promote health and improve the health education of children and families is to identify “teachable moments” during a health visit and respond to them using appropriate teaching strategies. Teachable moments can occur any time that children and families are open to learning, and the health visit presents an ideal opportunity for the child health professional to teach.
Child health professionals have the opportunity to practice advocacy whenever they interact with children and families. They can be involved in child advocacy either at an individual level (by accessing information or services for a child or family) or at a local or national level (by sharing information with the community or perhaps speaking out in support of a legislative issue).2
1 Bernstein HH, ed. (2005.) Pediatrics in Practice: A Health Promotion Curriculum for Child Health Professionals. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
2 Hagan JF, Shaw JS, Duncan PM, eds. (2008.) Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Third Edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.