To assess the implementation and effectiveness of the augmented WE CARE social care system on low-income children’s health care utilization and child maltreatment outcomes.
We conducted a type 1 hybrid effectiveness-implementation cluster randomized controlled trial at 6 community health centers. Full-term infants were followed from birth to age 3. The 3 experimental clinics implemented the augmented WE CARE system at well-child visits, consisting of a self-report screening instrument for 7 basic needs; an electronic health record-generated resource information referral system; and access to a peer patient navigator. Families at control community health centers received usual care; 1 control site was contaminated and removed from primary analysis. We analyzed results using generalized mixed-effects models.
Overall, 878 children were followed until age 3. Implementation of WE CARE was poor with only 28.9% of visits having a WE CARE screener documented. WE CARE families received significantly more resource referrals than control families (43.1% vs 1.9%, adjusted odds ratio 4.6; 95% confidence interval, 2.0–5.6); 20% were referred to the patient navigator. WE CARE children had significantly higher immunization adherence ratios. Although there were no statistically significant differences with well-child visits, WE CARE children had higher rates of emergency department visits than control children. By age 3, WE CARE children had significantly higher hospitalization rates (14.1% vs 10.4%, adjusted odds ratio 1.3, 95% confidence interval: 1.03–1.7). There were no statistically significant differences with maltreatment outcomes.
We found poor implementation and mixed benefits for the augmented WE CARE system on immunization, health care utilization, and maltreatment outcomes in early childhood.