LOS ANGELES, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found a program providing a "parent coach" to advise parents on preventive care services and other health recommendations improved the usefulness of well-child checkups.
The coaches add time to well checkups, which often amount to about 15 minutes with a doctor, allowing parents to discuss concerns, prioritize screening questions, and tailor visits to individual patients.
The new study is a trial based on the Parent-focused Redesign for Encounters, Newborns to Toddler program, or PARENT, designed in 2014 by researchers at UCLA to improve doctor visits based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Our preliminary findings suggest that PARENT may be a more effective system for the delivery of family-centered, comprehensive preventive care for young children in low-income communities," said Dr. Tumaini Coker, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UCLA-affiliated , in a press release. "The substantial reduction in visits to the emergency department in our findings could represent a cost savings."
For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers worked with 251 families at two pediatric practices, dividing them into groups either receiving standard well-child checkups or the new model for 12 months.
Based on surveys of participating families, those in the new model more often reported they felt informed on health education and guidance topics, had concerns addressed, had proper developmental screenings, and received care they thought was helpful and family-centered. The researchers also found less than half of families in the new model made two or more visits to the emergency department.
The researchers noted that 64 percent of families in the trial had an annual household income of $20,000 or less. Based on the results of the study, the increased time with a professional allowed had a particularly positive effect on the of care their children received.
"Parents had more time to receive customized preventive care services with the coach who could more readily connect them with community resources, conduct routine screenings and provide family-centered counseling," Coker said.