January 16, 2003

LOS ANGELES — A pilot study conducted by researchers at The Anderson School at UCLA has shown that providing Head Start parents with convenient, easy-to-understand health care information can improve the quality of care for sick children while reducing health care costs dramatically. Head Start families who participated in a health care training program reported a 37 percent drop in visits to health care providers and a 48 percent decrease in emergency room visits in the six months following the training.

The training program, along with initial and follow-up surveys, were underwritten by Johnson & Johnson, which is preparing to expand the program nationwide, in order to train 10,000 Head Start households over the next three years. If results from the pilot study hold, researchers predict that the program could save $2 million annually in Medicaid costs associated with unnecessary clinical and emergency room visits.

Prompted by a group of Head Start directors, Dr. Ariella Herman, a senior lecturer at The Anderson School, led the research team that conducted the study. The directors noted that many Head Start parents did not know how to treat common childhood illnesses, and wondered how their agencies could help.

Working in partnership with Johnson & Johnson and The Anderson School at UCLA, the team developed a training program that was delivered over a 30-day period in the fall of 2001. An important part of the training was incorporating the use of an easy-to-read book, What to Do When Your Child Gets Sick, written by Gloria Mayer. The book teaches parents how to care for their sick children and can subsequently be used as a reference following the training.

"Our previous research has shown that many parents lack a basic understanding of children's health care issues," said Dr. Herman, who is a senior lecturer at The Anderson School. "Our findings clearly demonstrate that with proper training, parents can provide a better quality of care for their sick children. We look forward to implementing this successful health care training pilot study to Head Start parents nationwide."

Dr. Herman is very familiar with the issues of Head Start parents and families, having taught in The Anderson School's Head Start-Johnson & Johnson Management Fellows Program for more than a decade. She was recognized with the program's first "Outstanding Head Start Faculty Award" in 2000 for her consistently high ratings from program participants.

The six month follow-up study, completed in June 2002, used surveys, focus groups, and informal interviews with parents, as well as with Head Start health care and parent coordinators, to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. The study found that the training had a remarkable impact on the families, as shown by the results in the accompanying table (Table 1).

Impact of Health Care Training (Table 1)

Health Care Provider Visits
Calls to Health Care Provider
Emergency Room Visits
% Reduction
37 %
42 %
48 %

The qualitative impacts of the program were significant as well. Parents reported that they were better able to determine if they could treat their child at home, or if the advice of a health care professional was needed. Benefits from the training included increased parental awareness of symptoms related to common illnesses, earlier and improved treatment, fewer days of missed school for children, and a reduction in work absences for parents.

"We are delighted that Dr. Herman led this groundbreaking study, and we are honored to partner with Head Start and The Anderson School at UCLA in this effort," said Alfred T. Mays, Johnson & Johnson vice president, corporate contributions and community relations. "As we prepare to roll out this program nationwide, the potential implications for children, families and our health care system are enormous."

Mernell King, director of the DCS Head Start site that was involved in the pilot, affirmed the impact of the training program. "This training program has had a profound impact on our children and families. The knowledge imparted by the training has enabled these parents to better care for their children, and their improved self-esteem at being able to do so is evident," noted King. "Moreover, our staff has seen the changes that have occurred and have found a renewed commitment in working with the families we serve."

Click here (PDF 609K) to download Dr. Herman's executive summary of the study's research results (Executive Summary: Ensuring Positive Health Outcomes in Head Start Children and Families)

About The Anderson School at UCLA

The Anderson School at UCLA is perennially ranked among the top-tier business schools in the world. Award winning faculty renowned for their research and teaching, highly selective students, successful alumni and world-class facilities combine to provide an extraordinary learning opportunity. Established in 1935, The Anderson School provides management education to more than 1,300 students enrolled in full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs and academic master's and Ph.D. programs.

The Anderson School's faculty includes outstanding educators and researchers who share their scholarship and expertise in such fundamental areas as finance, marketing, accounting, business economics, decisions, operations and technology management, human resources and organizational behavior, information systems, strategy and policy.

Offering unparalleled expertise in management education, the world's business community turns to The Anderson School at UCLA as a center of influence for the ideas, innovations, strategies, and talent that will shape the future.

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