Bright Futures recognizes that families make health decisions for their children every day. Ideally, families know the importance of immunizations and regular check-ups and understand that good health depends on family routines, including healthful meals, physical activity, and discipline. And, families work with health care professionals to build the strong partnerships that are so important in supporting healthy children.
Not only do parents have much to learn from health care professionals, but health care professionals also can learn from families. In addition to answering questions and solving problems, the family-centered model of care that Bright Futures promotes encourages families to share what is going well.
As a family member, you can offer real-life feedback about which health recommendations were useful and which were not. As a parent and caregiver, you often have learned things that might help health care professionals or other families. And by sharing your ideas and understanding about your family and children, you as a family member can reinforce your role as a partner in your children's health care.
A typical family has changed significantly in recent years. Today, fewer children now live with their biological mother and father. Many children are being raised in single-parent families, families headed by grandparents, stepfamilies, foster families, and same-sex families. And the roles of parents have shifted from the traditional models, as fathers increasingly participate in the care of their children. But, one thing has not changed—all families want the best for their children, including good health.
Communication is vital in the partnership to raise healthy children. Communication empowers families, promotes cooperation, and creates a comfortable environment where patients, families, and health care professionals can discuss any issue.
How Can You and Your Family Foster Communication in this Partnership?
- Understand that strong communication with health care professionals doesn't happen in one visit, but rather develops—with work—over time.
- Share information with your child's health care professionals. Come to the office visit with topics you want to discuss, ask questions, and don't be afraid to take notes.
- Get more information. Often, health care professionals have handouts and can guide you to other materials or community resources.
- Ask what is likely to happen in the next phase of your child's development.
- Find out how and when to contact your health care professional between visits.
Your family has great influence over your child's health habits, from daily exercise to diet to entertainment choices. However, families also need the specialized knowledge that only a pediatrician or health care professional can provide. Bright Futures promotes an honest, open relationship between you and your health care professionals to keeping your child healthy, and the best way of building this relationship is through a medical home.
The Medical Home
A medical home is not a place. It is a way for children and families to receive health care from a primary care provider they know and trust. The health care professional and family work together to make sure children and teens are healthy and know about any special health needs. They respect each other and make decisions as a team. Health care professionals value the family's role as the constant in the child's life. Pediatric providers know that you know your child best. Your health care professional will ask about your family, listen to your concerns about your child's health and development, and ask how you are doing. More information about the medical home model is available from Family Voices.
The National Center for Medical Home Implementation (NCMHI) at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is dedicated to ensuring that all children and youth have access to the medical home model of care. NCMHI offers useful tools, resources, and information that families can use to establish a trusting and collaborative partnership with their pediatrician. Resources available for families include:
- The Building Your Care Notebook: This tool helps families organize important information regarding their children and can be customized to reflect each child's medical history and current information.
- Community & State Resources: This comprehensive list of resources includes organizations and services that support patients and families at the community and state levels. A Spanish version is also available.
- How to Partner With Your Physician: This guide provides checklists and tips, advice on what to expect from a medical home, video interviews with providers, and other resources aimed at helping families form meaningful family-centered partnerships with their health care providers.
For Families: You can find additional tools and resources to promote the health of your child in partnership with your health care provider in the Resources for Families section.
For Children and Teens: Information that helps children and teens understand their own health care needs can lead to healthful and happy lifestyles. The Resources for Children and Teens section provides links to helpful publications.
For Professionals: Health care professionals are major partners in helping a family care for a child's health. Because of this, it is important for professionals to consider the cultural beliefs, communities, and relationships of both the child and the family. Information and resources on partnering with families can be found in the Clinical Practice section.