Our teams led studies and launched initiatives to confront the most pressing issues facing families.


Supporting the Transition From Pediatric
to Adult Care

Transitioning from pediatric to adult care can be especially difficult for youth with special health care needs who may face lapses in health care coverage, a shortage of specialized health care providers and poor care coordination between health care systems.

Youth living with sickle cell disease are at particularly high risk, experiencing a seven-fold increase in mortality rates as they transition to adulthood. Uniquely positioned to explore this timeframe, researchers at PolicyLab, CHOP’s Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, and Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center are collaborating to identify best practices for helping these youth transition from pediatric to adult health care. Through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant, the team is examining efficacy of two interventions—a six-month community health worker program and a mobile health application—in providing self-management tools to youth 17 years and older with sickle cell disease who are in the process of transitioning from pediatric to adult care. They’re comparing the interventions to usual care to determine if these tools improve patients’ ability to care for themselves, stay connected with their doctors, avoid visits to the emergency room, improve overall quality of life, and, ultimately, transition into healthy, productive adults.

Black Teen Wearing a Backpack

This program has really helped me a lot, my CHW [community health worker] knows a lot about me. I was in a really bad place at first, I did not take care of myself. Because I talk to my CHW I take my medicine every day, I eat better. She has continued to encourage me.

PCORI study participant

One of the greatest takeaways from working on the PCORI study is the importance of a collaborative research process. From the start, we realized that without input from patient, parent, provider, and community partners, this project could not adequately serve the sickle cell community.

Headshot of Tanisha Belton

Tanisha Belton, MPH, CHES

Clinical Research Project Manager

Making a Lasting Impact on Child Care & Early Education

The American Academy of Pediatrics presented PolicyLab researcher Marsha Gerdes, PhD, with the 2021 Dr. Susan S. Aronson Early Education and Child Care Advocacy Award. The award recognizes a health care professional who has made a significant contribution to improving the health and safety of children in early education and child care settings, a primary focus of Dr. Gerdes’ and her team’s research.

Over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to significantly impact the child care industry, Dr. Gerdes and her colleagues developed an issue brief highlighting the policy changes needed for a robust, quality child care system. They organized a virtual conversation that convened a panel of experts to discuss the child care crisis and emerging opportunities to address challenges faced by caregivers and child care providers. The research team also provided critical guidance for child care centers, providers and caregivers as they navigated the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their efforts led to an invitation from Pennsylvania State Rep. Mary Jo Daley’s office to join a roundtable discussion on child care as part of a series organized for the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Women’s Health Caucus.

Virtual Conversation—The Child Care Crisis: Partnering
With Health Care to Build a Stronger System

From Student to Researcher: Radhika Purandare

PolicyLab is fortunate to work with many talented students who provide invaluable support to the center, while also building diverse skill sets. Radhika Purandare is a former student who had a unique position at PolicyLab in 2020-21, working across research, policy and communications. At PolicyLab, she learned how researchers strengthen policy through evidence-based recommendations and how policy experts fortify communications strategies through connections with local partners.

Recently, Radhika traveled to Sweden to study maternal health among migrant populations as part of a Fulbright Grant at the Karolinska Institute, learning how Swedish programs and policies can inform how we look at maternal care for under-resourced communities in the U.S. Her work explores migrant women’s experiences of having community-based doulas. Radhika just completed a manuscript based on this project and is hoping her team’s research can demonstrate how beneficial doula support can be for individuals giving birth in unfamiliar environments.

Radhika believes her passion for children’s health grew stronger while at PolicyLab. After graduate school, she hopes to work in a space that allows her to translate research into policy reform because her time at the center showed her the importance of this connection.

Headshot of Radhika Purandare
“The collaboration I saw across issue areas and teams at PolicyLab reminded me that different skills—from advocacy to data analysis to designing videos and graphics—can all be valuable ways to push for policy change and encouraged me to think more broadly about what skills I want to work to develop.”

Promoting Learning & Growth With Our Morning Speaker Series

Each week, PolicyLab hosts our “Morning Speaker Series,” featuring internal and external experts who discuss their research and ongoing projects on a variety of topics including public health, policy, social work, research methods, and population health—providing us with an opportunity to learn from our colleagues and partners. This type of continual growth is foundational to PolicyLab’s mission and facilitates collaboration in our community and beyond.

We had a terrific lineup of speakers this year, with several sessions focused on research. Our “Methods Lectures” feature experts using unique methods to conduct ground-breaking research, including Deana Around Him, DrPH, ScM, a senior research scientist in the youth development program at Child Trends, who discussed maternal and child health trends among American Indian and Alaska Native populations and the cultural and contextual considerations and practices for conducting ethical, equitable research with these communities. During our “Early Career Researcher Spotlight,” which showcases projects led by early career researchers at PolicyLab, Emma Blackson, MPH, MS, and Katie Wu, MPH, shared their research focused on racial bias among early childhood educators and a therapy intervention for mothers with substance use disorder, respectively.

Morning Speaker Series Event Details Graphic with Headshot of Dr. Deana Around Him Morning Speaker Series Event Details Graphic with Headshot of Emma Blackson and Katie Wu

Strengthening Health Education in Schools

Clinicians and researchers within PolicyLab’s Adolescent Health and Well-being Portfolio collaboratively developed an issue brief in spring 2022 identifying opportunities for strengthening school health education and ensuring that it is responsive to youth needs, accurate, comprehensive, inclusive and equitably accessible. The experts highlighted relevant research with a focus on work that included adolescent perspectives and provided recommendations to inform decision-makers’ discourse on core components of health education.

Read the Brief
Teenagers Walking Outside Holding Backpacks and Skateboards