Manatt Health, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Nemours Children’s Health System, released a report outlining how organizations can drive social determinants of health (SDoH) investments for children through a Children’s Health and Wellness Fund.

Research shows that addressing SDoH among children can significantly impact their development and ability through adulthood, including their health, economic stability, and resiliency. However, children have largely been left behind in SDoH investments, according to a brief published last week by Manatt Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Nemours Children’s Health System.

Historically, there has been little financing for SDoH due to a reliance on short-term return on investment as well as anticipated financial returns that will exist outside the health sector, such as the child welfare system. But Manatt Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Nemours Children’s Health System have a new model to finance SDoH initiatives to ensure children and their families benefit from the investments.

The Children’s Health and Wellness Fund aims to facilitate a shared financing approach between sectors that service children, including health care, education, child welfare, and juvenile justice, explained report co-authors Cindy Mann and Mandy Ferguson.  “Critically, all these decisions require leadership from and close collaboration with the community to be served and a consistent and focused attention on promoting equity.”

The brief outlined four key areas organizations should develop to design and implement a Children’s Health and Wellness Fund:

1. The overall framework for the fund and the activities it supports: Determine the vision and administration of the fund, how it will be organized, how funds will be disbursed, the target population of children, and how it will contribute to existing SDoH efforts.

2. Fund responsibilities and mechanisms for oversight: Establish a governance structure to execute responsibilities.

3. Potential sources of funding: Identify the public and private actors that have a particular interest in children’s health development and who benefit from positive health outcomes to create a shared investment with a shared return. Rely on multiple sources of funding to ensure operations can continue without one in particular.

4. Program accountability and evaluation: Promote accountability through quality improvement efforts, data tracking, reporting, and evaluation. In addition, clearly communicate any expectations for stakeholders, including sources of and recipients of funds.

“The road to recovery and improved outcomes for our nation’s children and families won’t be easy— doing so requires a transformational shift of the way we define, deliver, and fund health care and social services,” wrote Mann and Ferguson. “It will require collaboration between sectors that have traditionally worked in silos, coordination instead of fragmentation, and a willingness to do things differently.”