HealthySteps (HS) provides an optimal opportunity to teach residents about child development, parenting, the effects of early toxic stress, early childhood mental health, and other social determinants of child and family health and well-being. HealthySteps Specialists (HSSs) nationwide work closely with residents and their patients during and in between well-child visits.
HSSs support residents in a number of important ways. They observe parent-child, resident-parent, and resident-child interactions, then model positive behaviors and best practices in relationship-building and providing anticipatory guidance. HSSs also provide quick “curbside” consults when residents encounter questions with families not enrolled in the program, and they can even complete visits when residents identify important child or family needs but have to move on to their next patient. HSSs partner with residents through the typical trainee and attending work flows of busy clinics, fostering a truly integrated, effective clinical care team.
One small study of a training curriculum based on HealthySteps materials used a pre-post design to assess changes in residents’ knowledge and confidence related to developmental screening and referrals. Results showed an increase in residents’ overall knowledge of development, as well as increased screening and referral rates. In another study, incorporating HealthySteps into residency training contributed to significantly improved continuity of care for HS children. Promising outcomes like these may encourage residents to implement or demand programs like HealthySteps—that support both the child and family—as they transition to their own clinics and often new health systems upon graduation.