GHS Children’s Hospital launches statewide child health/advocacy institute

What began as a car-seat check 15 years ago has led to the creation of the Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health and Advocacy, an innovative Greenville Health System-led partnership whose audacious goal is to improve the well-being of all children in S.C. through targeted research and intervention. The institute, one of a handful of similar efforts in the U.S., could help pave the way for national changes in pediatric care.

The Bradshaw Institute’s unique scope and partners will essentially extend care “beyond hospital walls” and into the community and actual homes, allowing wide-ranging programs to reach families before health problems reach critical level and so hopefully lessen impact of the problem – whether that problem is asthma, abuse, diabetes, skyrocketing obesity levels or ensuring children reach optimal development or preventing injuries through extensive community education. The institute and its community/university partners will focus on research, advocacy, prevention and education, healthy child development, community pediatrics and finding ways to reduce healthcare disparities.

The legacy gift for the institute was given by William and Annette Bradshaw, who saw a need to help build a safer and healthier community – both then, through that first car-seat check at his automotive dealership in Greer, and now, through the support of the institute which bears their name. Their gift is the largest in GHS’ history. The amount of the Bradshaw’s legacy gift is not being disclosed at the request of the family.

“Giving back to the community, especially by helping children and families, is very important to our family,” said William and Annette Bradshaw. “We’ve seen firsthand how prevention out-reach – whether as simple as a car-seat check or helmet fitting – can save lives. Can you imagine how much more we as a community and a state can achieve through this kind of innovative approach that expands care to families and takes it directly into their communities?”

The Bradshaws are well known in the Upstate for their philanthropy and have been recognized nationally for their work advocating for children. Their Bradshaw Automotive Group has grown into one of the region’s largest dealer groups since being founded in Greer in 1979. Bradshaw Automotive Group is made of four dealerships: Bradshaw Automotive in Greer, which includes Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, and also Breakaway Honda, Bradshaw Acura and Bradshaw Infiniti in Greenville.

“The Bradshaws are strengthening their legacy by passing on the value of community investment to their children and grandchildren,” said GHS President and CEO Mike Riordan. “I appreciate what this remarkable family is doing to build a safer and healthier community, state and nation for our most valuable treasure – our children.”

The same kind of impact GHS Children’s Hospital has had with its nationally recognized child advocacy program – which reduced accidental childhood deaths in Greenville County by more than 43 percent over a 20-year period – it now hopes to expand statewide in areas as diverse as healthy child development and community pediatrics through the Bradshaw Institute, said Kerry Sease, M.D., medical director for community child health at GHS.

“Creating health for the children in our communities requires us to rewrite the narrative on health beyond the traditional healthcare provider,” said Sease. “There must be a continuum of care to provide solutions that work, requiring us to bring a relational lens to both the medical providers and the community they serve. The Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health and Advocacy will serve as the catalyst in our community to optimize child health and development, focus on reduction of high cost care and, ultimately, foster a healthy child into a healthy adult.”

Historically, children hospitals’ interventions occur as symptoms are presented by individual patients. Anticipating, avoiding and preventing the onset of childhood illness, disease or injury, however, is a relatively new paradigm that requires ingenuity and collaboration beyond the conventional approach. To substantially improve a community’s health, children’s hospitals must extend their focus to include the social determinants that impact the overall wellness of young people, including education, family/social support, community safety and the law. The Bradshaw Institute provides the structure to attain both the medical and social outcomes necessary for children to live better and more fulfilled lives, Sease said.

“With the addition of new partners, more collaborations and expanded funding, we will be able to take the best practices we developed here in the Upstate and take them statewide or even nationwide,” said Linda Brees, the director of the Bradshaw Institute and long-time leader in children’s advocacy.

In the long run, this new approach will also help reduce the financial impact on the region’s healthcare resources since the intensive work will help keep children healthier and make some medical interventions unnecessary.

The impact of the institute will hinge on the research performed there that will provide proof of the benefits of its programs, said Desmond Kelly, M.D., a nationally recognized developmental-behavioral pediatrician and vice chair of pediatric academics and community services at GHS. “The institute will be the critical link between our academic teaching and research activities in pediatrics and our clinicians and the children and families they serve in the community,” he said. Early research includes the study of environmental influences on child health, understanding and addressing the root causes of health inequities and interventions to strengthen families in support of their children’s health and development.

“This is just the start with many more projects in development that will build the evidence of our success in transforming health care for children and diffusing innovative models of care,” said Kelly. The Bradshaw Institute is already centrally involved in training the inter-professional pediatric workforce with GHS student interns, residents and fellows participating in advocacy and population health programs.

Research partners currently include Clemson University, Furman University and the University of South Carolina, with funding sources as diverse as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Duke Endowment, the United Way of Greenville County, Winston’s Wish Foundation, Greenville First Steps, Mary Black Foundation, Community Foundation of Greenville, Children’s Trust of S.C. and the Institute for Child Success, as well as federal funding through the Maternal Child Health Bureau and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

GHS Children’s Hospital is already an established leader in child advocacy on local, state and national levels through involvement with such organizations as the Institute for Child Success, the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative, the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, Safe Kids Worldwide, the Help Me Grow national office and the University of South Carolina Children’s Law Center.

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