Columbia University Earns Unique Pediatric Grant

NEW YORK — Throughout the entirety of human medical history, one of the largest and most insidious enemies of human health and happiness has been the seemingly basic struggle against infection. Parents of small children wouldn’t be very surprised to hear that pediatric facilities provide an increased challenge in the battle for cleanliness. Luckily for The Big Apple’s smallest patients, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently awarded a four-year, $1.2 million grant to the Columbia University School of Nursing for studies on hand hygiene at three New York facilities that serve children with health conditions that put them at particular risk to infection. The hope is that these studies, dubbed Keep It Clean for Kids (KICK), will help children stay healthier, especially those children who must endure long-term hospitalization.

The effort will be led by Elaine Larson, RN, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing, and Lisa Saiman, MD, MPH, professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and Hospital Epidemiologist at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian.

“The goal of this study is to reduce [health care-associated infections] in pediatric long-term care facilities with a tailored intervention that combines innovative technology, active participation of leadership and staff, continuous workflow assessments and feedback," Dr. Larson explained. "We want to change the patient safety culture so that the benefits of KICK are sustainable and transferable to other pediatric long-term care facilities."

Columbia has previously been involved in this area, conducting a study in 2011 with Debmed, a Charlotte, N.C. hand hygiene technology company, which “revealed low rates of hand-hygiene compliance across various pediatric long-term care facilities,” according to the university. The KICK program will use a Debmed product, which monitors employees’ hand hygiene habits, using the World Health Organizations “Five Moments for Hand Hygiene, as a guideline.

Research into seemingly basic functions like following simple hygiene rules has proven to be fruitful in the past, as studies have shown that following basic checklists can significantly improve outcomes for everyone from surgeons to airplane pilots. Dr. Saimon hopes similar leaps can be made with this study.

"Prevention of HAIs among children in pediatric long-term care facilities has not been well-studied," said Dr. Saimon. "Infection prevention efforts involved in this study will extend beyond traditional clinical staff to include teachers, families, and hospital volunteers and, if successful, can be adopted by other clinical settings such as family-centered care, pediatric and adult acute care, and day care."