Developmental delays are frequently encountered among young children and disproportionately affect impoverished minority children leading to disparities in early child development. To promote healthy child development, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandated early intervention (EI) services be made available to young children with delays, but only half of at-risk children initiate and complete EI services. As a result, many at-risk children may not receive needed services to improve their development. To foster initiation and completion of EI services, we developed the Opening Doors to Early Intervention Program, a patient navigation intervention based on the Health Belief Model and targeted to at-risk urban minority children. An initial pilot study among at-risk children demonstrated feasibility and generated promising results. Therefore, this Community-Based Participatory Research application proposes to test the effectiveness of this program in a single urban county using a randomized trial design.
The specific aims are to 1) determine the effectiveness of the Opening Doors to early Intervention Program on child developmental status and EI referral and services use, 2) assess whether parent engagement in early intervention mediates the effects of the program, and 3) explore whether the home learning environment, parental health literacy, and poverty moderate the effects of the program. This application addresses health disparities in early childhood by testing an intervention designed to improve participation rates in EI among urban minority children and their families on measures of early child development and EI services use. Three to four primary care pediatric clinics that provide care to this diverse urban community will be recruited to participate. Three hundred sixty children who are less than 30 months of age and have been identified as developmentally at-risk and referred for EI services at participating clinics will be randomized to receive the Opening Doors to Early Intervention Program or usual care. Urban minority parents who have previously participated in EI services will be trained as patient navigators to provide education, motivation, and assistance for families with initiation and completion of EI referrals and services. Clinicians and Child Find staff will provide usual care consisting of developmental screening and referrals without assistance. Information on participant demographic characteristics, health literacy, and the home learning environment at baseline; parent engagement and EI referral and services completion at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months; and child development at 12 months will be collected during scheduled study visits. Differences in outcomes between intervention and control participants will be compared using intention-to-treat analysis. Findings from this comparative effectiveness study can be disseminated to similar large urban counties across the U.S. to inform Child Find and EI procedures and address disparities in early child development.

Public Health Relevance

Poor urban minority children often experience delays in their early development leading to health disparities. Publicly funded early intervention services are available to improve child development among these children in Philadelphia, but few children access and complete these services. This can be due to parents misunderstanding what the services include or may be due to difficulties parents experience in overcoming barriers to participating. This study will test the effectiveness of the Opening Doors to Early Intervention Program, a patient navigation intervention designed to improve families' engagement with early intervention services and overcome barriers to access these services, on early child development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Health Disparities and Equity Promotion Study Section (HDEP)
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Hailu, Benyam
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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
United States
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