Community-Based Collaboration Helps Close Healthcare Gaps for San Diego Children

Blue Shield Promise Health Plan hosts well-child visits for its young Medi-Cal members.

An innovative healthcare pilot in San Diego that began this fall and runs through January 20, 2024, is helping close healthcare gaps for children and youth (newborns through age 21) who are members of Blue Shield Promise Health Plan.

A program of the Clinical Quality team, this health-equity initiative encompasses eight well-child visit events, managed by Blue Shield Promise in collaboration with Quality Health Partners, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego, and the YMCA of San Diego County.

Medical teams from Quality Health Partners (which provides primary-care quality support services for Blue Shield Promise) are conducting wellness checkups at neighborhood locations of the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA throughout San Diego. The events are being held on Saturdays to make it convenient for parents who work to bring in their children. The nonprofit organizations were selected as sites because they are trusted community organizations.

“These events are being held on Saturdays to make it easier for working parents to bring their children in,” said Christine Nguyen, director of Clinical Quality at Blue Shield Promise. “The visits are not intended to replace children’s regular visits to a primary care physician, but to promote preventive care and reinforce the importance of children seeing their primary care physician for ongoing healthcare and annual checkups, even when they are feeling well.”

Events to date show promising results. Goals for the average number of children attending events have been met, and referrals for further care have been made for young members needing help for issues such as behavioral health, nutritional counseling and support programs, and up-to-date immunizations from their primary care physicians.

“Holding these events at neighborhood community organizations has helped build trust among families and children about engaging with healthcare professionals. Some participants report that they feel more comfortable coming to these sites instead of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, and it is easier and more convenient for them,” noted Nguyen.

Among the benchmarks a well-child exam includes are measuring a child’s height, weight, and body mass index; immunization status; topical fluoride applications; developmental screening (for those younger than 3 years old); depression screening (for those 12 years and older); lead screenings (if applicable); counseling on age-appropriate topics, and encouragement to establish (or continue) care with a primary care physician and a dentist.

“This health-equity program is designed to focus on annual wellness visits for our young members, and to address the trend in declining visits that occur over time as children get older,” said Valerie Martinez, chief health equity officer at Blue Shield Promise. Data shows that after children reach age 3, there is a decline of 10% in annual visits for checkups, and that percentage further escalates after age 5, with the lowest percentage of annual wellness visits between the ages of 18 and 21.  

Five well-child events for Blue Shield Promise Medi-Cal members have been held to date.

Dates and locations of the remaining events are:  

  • November 18, Copley Price Family YMCA, 4300 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
  • January 13, Boys & Girls Club, Clairemont Branch, 4635 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego
  • January 20, Boys & Girls Club, Conrad Prebys Escondido Branch, 115 W. Woodward Avenue, Escondido