Creating Pediatric Disaster Care Centers of Excellence

Children represent 25 percent of the U.S. population and face specialized medical issues due to their unique developmental and physiologic characteristics. While pediatric hospitals provide excellent care for children on a day-to-day basis, a regionally-based pediatric disaster care capability is needed to manage the overwhelming and unique medical needs of children who are impacted by a disaster.

In September 2019, the U.S. HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) awarded two cooperative agreements totaling $6 million to pilot the creation of Pediatric Disaster Care Centers of Excellence (COE) to improve disaster response capabilities for children in the United States.

HHS ASPR granted two cooperative agreements to the Regents of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for a COE led by the UCSF Health System and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital; and the University Hospitals of Cleveland for a COE led by University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

These pilot projects also will define the delivery of pediatric clinical care when existing systems become stressed or overwhelmed. Under this pilot project, UCSF Health System and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital will ensure the needs of all pediatric patients, including children with special health care needs, along with their parents and caregivers are considered and integrated into the Pediatric Disaster Care COE plans and operations.

“We are committed to the needs of children, one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. “This pilot project will serve as the proving ground, and identify any gaps in health care resources and services that are vital to continuity of pediatric health care delivery to give children the physical and emotional care they need and deserve during disasters.”

Pediatric care requires specialized training, equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals that may not be readily available in an emergency. Minimizing the impacts of children’s exposure to trauma, infectious diseases, and other hazards during a public health emergency or disaster can challenge health care facilities that do not specialize in pediatric care and stress the health care system as a whole.

The pilot sites and awarded funds are part of a plan to address pediatric disaster care needs and known gaps. As COEs, the two recipients must develop or improve their capability and capacity to provide highly specialized care to pediatric patients within and outside their own regions. The recipients will:

These pilot projects also will define the delivery of pediatric clinical care when existing systems become stressed or overwhelmed. Under this pilot project, UCSF Health System and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital will ensure the needs of all pediatric patients, including children with special health care needs, along with their parents and caregivers are considered and integrated into the Pediatric Disaster Care COE plans and operations.

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