Lurie Children’s and Four Other Leading Children’s Hospitals Secure $29M in Federal Funding to Enhance Future Pandemic Readiness

July 19, 2022

Hospitals will focus on preventing the health disparities that emerged during COVID-19

WASHINGTON – (July 19, 2022) – Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and a network of children’s hospitals from across the country will coordinate on the response to future pandemics and other disasters through a new $29 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The group, known as the Pediatric Pandemic Network (PPN), will focus on the unique needs and challenges to children during pandemics and disasters, ensuring that health equity is at the forefront of emergency planning.

In addition to Lurie Children’s, the hospitals include:

  • Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. (lead institution)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics at Children’s of Alabama
  • Children’s Mercy Kansas City
  • Seattle Children’s

As a key member of this network, Lurie Children’s brings expertise and leadership in understanding how children and their families are impacted by infectious diseases in the communities they live, work and play.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that children are uniquely impacted by new infectious threats in their communities and that impact is felt far beyond hospital walls,” said Larry Kociolek, MD, MSCI, Medical Director of Infection, Prevention and Control and Infectious Diseases physician at Lurie Children’s. “This innovative national network will leverage cross-disciplinary experience and expertise to develop a pediatric-focused framework for pandemic response. With broad stakeholder engagement, we will establish a new paradigm for effectively and equitably responding to future pandemics that addresses the unique medical, educational, and behavioral health needs of children. 

The hospitals recognize that while the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the entire world, the pediatric population in particular has been challenged by a lack of established coordination among pediatric care providers. In addition to addressing health equity, the funding facilitates the following:

  • Establishing pathways to gather and disseminate research-informed insights into how to care for children in a future pandemic to both medical providers and community organizations.
  • Developing a telehealth infrastructure to support the care of acutely ill children and expand mental health access.
  • Expanding pediatric-focused emergency preparedness and planning with a focus on behavioral health, social support, and educational services, all of which are typically provided by community organizations.

“As the current pandemic has proven to the world, pandemics and public health crises magnify pre-existing environmental, health, social and economic inequities,” said Joelle Simpson, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator of the grant, division chief of Emergency Medicine and medical director of Emergency Preparedness at Children’s National. “Communities of color not only feel the impact of pandemics and disasters far more severely than others, but also have more difficulty obtaining aid and assistance. If the needs of vulnerable populations are not addressed in emergency planning, the national disaster preparedness strategy could fail for all.”

In September 2021, HRSA launched the Regional PPN by funding five pediatric hospitals to support the planning and preparation of children’s hospitals to respond to a global health threat. This new grant doubles the size and reach of the network in order to benefit all children in the nation.