Episode 27 of the More than Health Care: A Community Health Conversation podcast is now available on the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. Every other week, a new episode uncovers keys to collaboration and holistic health in pursuit of improved health outcomes and lower costs for all.

Numbers related to cases of child abuse and neglect have gone down worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. That sounds good at face value; however, the lower statistics are most likely due to the disruption of normal reporting channels rather than an actual decline. That concerns Dr. Bob Shapiro, director of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “The eyes and the ears that typically hear about the abuse or see the potential for abuse because kids are with their teachers or with a preschool environment or with neighbors or with family members, they're not in those environments anymore,” said Shapiro. “They're not being seen, and so the number of reports has dramatically decreased.”

In fact, cases could be increasing, as factors leading to abuse, such as parent stress, unemployment, and food insecurity, are amplified by the pandemic. Shapiro and his staff took action by not only implementing a telemedicine approach for their needs but also through developing scripts that can be used by educators, social workers, and others who are working with families over the phone or videoconference. He knows It’s hard for teachers, preschool providers, and others who are checking in with families to see how they're doing to ask questions that can identify abuse. To help, questions like: Who is taking care of you? How is everyone getting along? Is anyone having a hard time? have been developed and provided to allow interviewers to help a child relate what's happening in their lives.

This type of cross-sector collaboration increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, not only for Children's Hospital in Cincinnati but for many organizations that overcame barriers to address the immediate need. And Shapiro is looking beyond this crisis to continue partnerships to increase engagement and broaden the discussion to include a sharper focus on the social determinants of health in combating abuse and neglect.

Shapiro is sure that this pandemic experience will forever change health care with increased telehealth and the knowledge that obstacles between sectors can be quickly overcome when needed. And the latter will be especially crucial as the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt throughout society in the months and years to come.

Listen to how Dr. Bob Shapiro and  his staff at the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital are keeping kids safe from abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic in Episode 27 of the  More than Health Care Podcast  available through the Alliance website or subscribe on the Apple Podcast, Google Play, or Spotify apps

About the Podcast

While many are realizing that collaboration and holistic approaches are the solution, the health care and human services sectors are struggling to find the right formula to realize the full potential. The More than Health Care podcast is designed to help organizations overcome barriers to partnerships resulting from cultural differences, financial pressures, and rules and regulations. 

In addition to showcasing inspiring examples of integration from across the country, featured experts will expose the myths, misconceptions, and shortcomings of efforts to address the social determinants of health through collaboration across sectors. 

This podcast is presented by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Ascentria Care Alliance, and Beech Acres Parenting Center. Cohosts Jill Huynh, vice president of new business development at Beech Acres, and Tim Johnstone, executive vice president of community services at Ascentria, work at the intersection of health and human services, bringing the expertise and practical experience to uncover key takeaways for improving health care and human services integration. 

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Learn more about the Alliance's efforts to improve population health and well-being.