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April 8, 2015

First there was Vermont, then Utah and New Mexico. Now there are 21 states across the nation for which the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program at the University of Vermont College of Medicine has served as a model. Together, these organizations form the National Improvement Partnership Network (NIPN), which expands the concept of advancing healthcare quality for children across state lines and allowing for projects to have a broader reach.

The founder of this movement is Judy Shaw, Ed.D., M.P.H., R.N., who in addition to serving as executive director of VCHIP since its founding in 1999, wears a couple other hats: She’s a UVM associate professor of pediatrics and nursing and head of NIPN, a multi-state coalition of child health programs that is also housed at UVM.

No matter the title, Shaw’s most important job is that of collaborator. She spends much of her time bringing together various entities invested in the well-being of Vermont’s youth – state health officials, physicians, UVM researchers and faculty, Medicaid representatives and potential funding sources – and figuring out ways to enhance their care of children.

“We are constantly bringing in money from all over the place to benefit the kids in this state,” Shaw says.

Her work helped VCHIP win the Outstanding Collaboration Award this year from the KidSafe Collaborative of Chittenden County, which works to prevent child abuse and neglect. KidSafe will officially present the award to VCHIP at its annual luncheon on April 16.

“The KidSafe Awards Selection Committee was very impressed by VCHIP’s accomplishments on behalf of child health and safety in our community and throughout Vermont, through your partnerships with many organizations,” states the group’s letter to Shaw announcing the honor.

The VCHIP nomination also noted the organization’s efforts to prevent suicide, lead poisoning, and abusive head trauma, and to promote safe sleep, gun safety and a protective environment.

Last fall, for example, the Centers for Disease Control provided a five-year $300,000 grant to the Academic Pediatric Association (APA), which solicited the help of NIPN and other institutions to enhance primary care physicians’ delivery of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescents. For the first year, the work will focus on increasing vaccination rates in 65 primary care practices and tracking their progress, according to the APA.

VCHIP has become the “go-to” resource for any efforts to improve pediatric care in Vermont, says Shaw.

“Doctors don’t get paid to stop and measure how they’re doing and think about how to improve it,” she explains. “What we do in VCHIP is help the physicians look at the systems obstacles that stand in the way.”

Last month, UVM College of Medicine faculty presented updates on 20 projects for which VCHIP has helped secure funding and provided support. One of those was a breastfeeding initiative spearheaded by Anya Koutras, M.D., associate professor of family medicine. Co-investigators on the project include Wendy Davis, M.D., professor of pediatrics; Molly Rideout, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics; Kirsten Berggren, Ph.D., F.N.P., primary care internal medicine nurse practitioner, UVM Medical Center; Laura Murphy, M.D., a pediatrician who practices in St. Johnsbury, Vt.; and Karen Flynn, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program administrator, Vermont Department of Health. The team created an assessment tool to encourage breastfeeding in primary care settings that featured mechanisms to evaluate and boost doctors’ success in helping more mothers breastfeed their babies for longer periods of time. The team’s project won the U.S. poster prize at the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Annual International Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, in November 2014.

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