Public forum focuses on pediatric health care

The Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition for the Tennessee Valley wants to hear about your experience with pediatric health care in the Chattanooga area.

So, representatives are hosting four public forums from downtown to Dalton, with one set to take place at DuPont Elementary Thursday, March 6 at 7 p.m.

“We tried to find some places where all the community members will feel comfortable,” said Allen Coffman, president of PHIC and a pediatrician with Highland Pediatrics.

Attendees will be sharing information relating to the public view of pediatric health care in the area, such as what is not working, what things have worked well, what things need to keep happening and what needs to be done differently in the future.

In December, PHIC started doing an assessment of pediatric health care in the Tennessee Valley region by conducting interviews with stakeholders such as school board representatives and pediatricians. A consulting firm will draw information from that study as well as the upcoming public forums to create a crossview of pediatric health care in the community, said Coffman.

“We’ve got good numbers that [show] our community is doing poorly,” he said, giving the area’s rates of asthma, premature births, school readiness and obesity as examples. “[However] we’ve got pockets that are even worse.”

For instance, only one in three children in Hamilton County is obese, while 60 percent of black adolescent males are obese.

“We want to know how to address those issues more efficiently,” Coffman said.

Instead of instituting a system-wide program to combat obesity, efforts could be focused at a particular school that needs it most, he explained.

“The thing that’s enticing for me is our community is small enough that you can actually have the opportunity to make some significant changes,” said Coffman. “Better organization and better data could have a big impact.”

Feedback from people who have been through the area’s pediatric health care system is an important part of the process, he said.

“There’s no primer course to teach you how to get health services,” said Coffman. “It’s a dynamic system. We really want to hear what that’s like for families.”