Together with donors and community partners, we reach beyond the hospital walls to help all children flourish

Ms. Jongi, a first-grade teacher at Roll Hill Elementary School, sits across the table from her student, Bryan*. He bounces in his chair a bit, excited to learn, and becomes immediately absorbed in the task at hand when she gives him a piece of paper with sight words. 

For every word Bryan can read out loud, he gets to stamp a bright green circle on it. He plops a satisfying mark as he recites the, and, to, he and so on. When he’s done, Bryan chooses three words that aren’t highlighted—these are his goal words for next week. 

“What are some things you’ll do to learn these words?” Ms. Jongi asks, her voice bright and cheerful. Bryan says that he’ll read them, practice speaking them and, of course, ask his mom for help. 

“This is the most excited I’ve seen my students since the beginning of the year,” Ms. Jongi says. “They love that they can set their own goal and come up with a plan to achieve it. Creating these changes makes them delighted to learn.” 

Ms. Jongi’s experience is just one example of how we’re extending our proven methods of quality improvement (QI) science beyond the hospital walls to help the children in our community flourish.

This work is being fueled by the generous support of donors.

Being the Best at Getting Better 

In a medical setting, QI refers to a set of methods to ensure that the best processes and practices are reliably done to achieve excellent health outcomes for the children we serve. It involves setting clear goals, listening carefully to the patient and family for ideas, testing new approaches, and looking at data over time to see if things are improving. Cincinnati Children’s has been a national leader in being “the best at getting better.”

Yet we understand that our vision to be the leader in improving child health means more than providing expert medicine. That’s why we’re sharing our strength and expertise in QI with community organizations to support essential elements of child development and tackle issues that create health disparities, helping more kids like Bryan pursue their potential.

Our teams are creating collaborative partnerships with other experts who share our vision for thriving kids in Cincinnati, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), Job and Family Services, the Legal Aid Society, Head Start, the Cincinnati Health Department and many others. We're sharing our QI expertise with them through community courses, coaching and joint initiatives. Together, we're listening to kids and families in our community and designing and testing new strategies so all children can thrive.

This work includes a strong focus on ensuring families are safe and supported so that children are ready to learn and be successful in kindergarten, setting them up for success by third grade—a predictor of future success in high school and beyond. Together with partners, we’re also co-creating systems of support to reduce hardships around food and housing insecurity, working to stop child abuse and neglect, and improving emotional wellbeing and financial stability for families.

By analyzing what’s working, measuring impact and supporting communities to scale successful efforts, we’re continuously improving outcomes—all with the clear aim to help Cincinnati’s kids become the healthiest in the nation.

Working directly with families and community, government and educational leaders, we stand to impact the children of today and generations to come. However, this positive momentum wouldn’t be possible without another key partnership—donors like Nancy and David Wolf.

Committed Partners: David and Nancy Wolf

For more than a decade, the Wolfs have been supporting Cincinnati Children’s. Their long-standing generosity helped create an international training and research collaborative with scientists in Israel—advancing medical research while improving the wellbeing of kids locally. Recently, they have stepped up as lead donors to help us build on our successful partnership with the schools to improve outcomes for students.

“COVID put everything up on its end and children are really suffering,” says David. “We want to provide critical help to Cincinnati’s kids. Our hope being to impact both education and mental health,” he explains. “We’ve seen Cincinnati Children’s in action, and we have great confidence that they can make our city an even stronger, better place.”

The Wolfs understand that child health and education are inextricably intertwined. And thanks to their support, we’re now partnering with teachers, principals and reading specialists across the district—and together we’re improving outcomes.

Prior to the classroom disruptions of the COVID pandemic, CPS schools trained to use QI saw reading proficiency scores improve, mirroring state averages. And the Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 23 percent. In comparison, schools not using QI methods lowered the gap by only 3 percent.

“Support from the Wolfs and Cincinnati Children’s helped bring us all together to promote student achievement and overall success,” says Mike Allison, principal of Oyler School. “We’ve been able to get to the heart of how we can improve, how we can measure progress and how we can be the best advocates for our children.”

Since the Wolfs chose to create an endowment to sustain our collaborative quality improvement efforts within the community and in schools, we’ll be able to expand our work to include more schools throughout the district and add behavioral health initiatives. Building on the district’s exciting culture of learning and improvement, we’ll create new opportunities for a generation of educators, families and kids. 

Creating Change with Those Who Share Our Vision

We envision a Cincinnati where all babies are born healthy. Where families can provide safe, nurturing environments. Where school-aged kids are ready to learn and thrive. Where an integrated system of care is in place to meet children’s physical, educational and emotional needs—enabling every child to reach their greatest potential.

With our long history of quality improvement success and achievement, and committed partners, we’ve laid the groundwork needed to tackle other serious challenges in our community—like health equity.

Despite our best efforts to consistently deliver expert care, disparities still exist for physical and mental health outcomes among our patients based on race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status and neighborhood.

Looking deeper into the disparities, we’ll work to uncover common factors, like hunger, inadequate housing and unsafe neighborhoods, that widen gaps and impact our kids. Working with community experts­—both external organizations, and children and families themselves—we’ll develop and test improvement strategies with a laser focus on data and results. With careful tracking and measurement, we aim to improve clinical care and connect that care to community supports that will mitigate these factors and eliminate the gaps they cause.

With strong community engagement, trust and support from donors, we believe these efforts will be transformational. Together, we’ll never stop moving forward for children.

For more information on our quality improvement initiatives, or if you would like to support this important work, please contact Sarah Sullivan at sarah.sullivan@cchmc.org or 513-636-5664.