A new year offers us an opportunity to dream big, set goals, and start the work of achieving them. At the Me Fine Foundation, we drafted nine resolutions for our organization in 2019. Thanks to our staff, Board of Directors, hospital partners, volunteers, corporate supporters, and donors, we’ve been able to address the urgent financial needs of families and provide the funding for emotional and psychosocial programs within the medical setting for thousands of pediatric patients, siblings, and caregivers. But, we know there’s more to do in order to truly meet the needs of children and families in medical crisis.
Between now and January 31, we’ll be revealing our nine resolutions for the year ahead. We invite you to join us on any and all of these commitments. You can share your own personal experiences, ask questions, and find ways to ensure these goals continue beyond this month.
Me Fine’s first resolution for 2019: we commit to communicating more about the intersectionality of pediatric illness and medical crisis with other systemic barriers experienced by countless families in our communities. This includes a lack of affordable housing and public transportation options; this also includes food insecurity and difficulties accessing childcare.
Why is Me Fine, a nonprofit focused on supporting critically ill children and families served by our partner hospitals, talking about these issues? Because we recognize that we have the responsibility of supporting families in a multitude of ways.
First, we provide assistance during the most extreme, urgent times. This aligns with our values that families come first, and parents/caregivers should be able to be with their ailing child as much as possible.
Second, we fund programs that equip pediatric patients, siblings, and parents with coping skills and relationships that support their emotional and social well-being far beyond their time of treatment and hospitalization. Trained social workers, psychologists, and Child Life specialists administer these opportunities.
Third, we see a new opportunity for us to shed light on underlying issues that tend to exacerbate further harm on families when pediatric illness and medical crisis occur. Over the last few years, hospitals, health insurance providers, and funders have brought much attention to these “social determinants” of health; specifically, these groups have shared evidence and research on how factors like housing, natural environment, transportation, and education impact physical and mental health and their outcomes. The research shows that until these challenges are remedied, too many people will continue to cycle through the healthcare system in ways that don’t ultimately address their specific needs and benefit the broader community.
This year, Me Fine wants to highlight these “social determinants” in the communities where families we support call home. Through no fault of their own, many individuals face seemingly insurmountable hurdles due to their zip code and other mitigating circumstances. Layering on a child’s critical or chronic medical condition tends to exacerbate an already precarious situation. For instance, in North Carolina’s rapidly-expanding urban centers such as Durham, there are few options available for truly affordable housing. Rising rent and mortgage costs may push families from their homes, forcing them to seek alternative housing with relatives or wait for nonprofit or public assistance programs. This waiting period is when families often find themselves living in cars or end up on the street; some may have to move further away from their child’s care center, thus adding even more strain on financial resources for gas, not to mention the emotional stress of being physically further away from your child.
The good news is that for many of these intersecting issues, local and state leaders are working with nonprofit and community-based organizations to identify solutions and create new systems. Until the root causes that lead to chronic poverty, underemployment, and hunger are addressed, there will continue to be children and families who must endure such outcomes on top of the already-difficult world of pediatric illness. We’re making a commitment in 2019 to talk more about and explore these varying issues, what’s being done, and how you can get involved.