The Joel and Barbara Alpert Endowment for Children of the City was established at Boston University School of Medicine in honor of the work carried out by the Alperts over their 25 years with Boston City Hospital, Boston Medical Center and the Boston University medical community. The endowment is used to support Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center residents and fellows. Projects are expected to study the medical and social needs of vulnerable children, their families and their communities.

Two times per year, the Center for the Urban Child and Healthy Family releases a Request for Proposals (RFP) to fellows and pediatric residents to implement and evaluate projects that innovate and transform pediatric health care delivery and improve child health outcomes. The spring 2020 cycle focused specifically on proposals for projects that aimed to address the impacts of COVID-19 on BMC patients and is pleased to provide awards to three projects.

From Food Pantry to Doorstep: A Partnership between DotHouse Health and Uber to Overcome Transportation-Related Barriers to Food Access in the COVID-19 Era

The ongoing pandemic has significantly exacerbated childhood food insecurity, which had already achieved epidemic proportions before COVID-19 hit. Despite ongoing efforts by public and private sectors across Massachusetts, food insecurity persists for many families, partly due to transportation-related barriers to access existing food resources. This project explores a novel intervention that addresses transportation-related food insecurity by deploying the Uber platform to deliver up to 400 packages per year filled with food and pandemic preparedness resources from BMC and DotHouse Health to families’ doorsteps. Successful implementation of this partnership will directly alleviate the acute crisis in childhood hunger and provide a possible model for addressing transportation-related barriers to food access long after the pandemic has subsided. The BMC project team includes Rohini Jain, MD, Colleen Kelly, MD, Sagar Mehta, MD, and Robert Rosen, MD, in partnership with DotHouse collaborators pediatrician Curtis Nordgaard, MD, and CEO Michelle Nadow.

Impact of Patient Navigators on Seizure Frequency in an Urban Pediatric Neurology Clinic

Led by Elizabeth Wilson, MD, this project aims to decrease the number of breakthrough seizures in children with epilepsy who experience insecurities related to social determinants of health. The project is designed to explore whether access to a patient navigator improves medication adherence and decreases frequency of breakthrough seizures in children with epilepsy. Overall, this project would help clinicians determine if patient navigators serve as an effective means of addressing social hardships that may lead to poor health outcomes. This is specifically relevant in today’s environment of COVID-19, which has placed significant financial stress on our patients and families as well as limited patients’ abilities to access medical care. Additional project members include mentors Laurie Douglass, MD, Arvin Garg, MD, MPH, and Megan Sandel, MD,  and Research Analyst Manuel Alvarado.

Provision of Home Thermometers in the Primary Care Setting

The thermometer is an invaluable frontline tool in diagnosing and managing infectious and inflammatory diseases. Even before patients present to urgent or emergency care, fever is a common reason to call pediatrician offices or advice lines. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, telemedicine is a valuable tool for assessing and triaging patients but is lacking in accurate measurements including vital signs. Despite this, many families either do not own thermometers or use them inconsistently or incorrectly. The primary care clinic is an ideal setting for providing this essential parental tool and guidance on usage. This project proposes universal distribution thermometers within the structured setting of a child and family’s first newborn well child visit. These thermometers will both serve as an instrument for assessing fever at home and be accompanied by written and oral teaching around management of fever and indications for presentation to health care settings. Investigators include Colby Chiang, MD, PhD​, Mary Kate Driscoll, MD​, Daniel Echelman, MD, PhD​, Max Horlbeck, MD, PhD​, Sabrina Karim, MD​, and Alyssa Robinson, MD​. Mentors of this work include Christine Cheston MD, Melissa Nass MD, Ariel Hoch, DO, MPH, and Catherine James, MD.

Awards for the fall 2020 Alpert RFP cycle will be announced in December and the spring 2020 cycle will be released in February.