Children's Hospital Colorado

Transforming Community Health

Five kids playing in a park

Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI)

Advocating for kids – in and out of the hospital ™

Children's Hospital Colorado partners with the community to advocate for the health and safety of kids. Our work goes beyond our hospital walls and into the communities we support. We're proud to lead the effort to bring solutions to some of our community's most pressing pediatric health issues.

To reinforce our ongoing commitment to community health improvement, Children's Colorado established the Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI). CHAI's mission is to positively impact the health and safety of children by working collaboratively with the public and our community partners. By bringing people together and leading the way in child health and safety, CHAI builds and operates evidence-based programs aimed at creating a thriving community for all children.

Supporting community health needs for children

Imagine a child who is referred to the Lifestyle Medicine Program of Children's Colorado for obesity management. Not only does this child's obesity impact their physical health and well-being, it likely impacts other health areas, like their susceptibility to injury, asthma and oral health issues.

Before looking to immediately address the issue of obesity, which also trickles into these other health conditions, we must first recognize the comprehensive nature of a child's care, including social determinants of health.

Social determinants of child health

Several factors likely contribute to a child's struggle with obesity.

For example, does the child live in a neighborhood where it isn't safe to play outside? Does their family have access or financial means to purchase healthy foods? Do they come from a culture where managing obesity isn't a priority? Does their school have physical education classes as part of the curriculum?

When we get to the core of what's causing health problems, it typically involves many layers of influence. In fact, only 20% of health depends on clinical care; the other 80% depends on social determinants, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Specifically:

  • 40% relates to social and economic factors such as education, culture, employment, income, community safety, family and social support
  • 30% relates to health behaviors like tobacco use, diet, exercise and alcohol use
  • 10% relates to the physical environment or environmental quality

Many children experience overlapping social determinants of health, such as low income, lack of transportation and poor access to safe places and role models, which consequently affects their health and well-being.

The population health approach for kids

The future of healthcare depends on how we address and support the whole picture of a child's health and begin to change both the way we deliver healthcare and the way our population accesses healthcare. Every population and every community has a different set of healthcare needs, and delivering care isn't a one-size-fits-all model.

We call this model population health, where we implement creative and alternative methods to ensure access to care for the entire population — in our case, children. The population health approach is not only about access to medical care, but also supporting health and wellness in the home, communities and schools. It's about delivering healthcare that lasts beyond a visit to the doctor or a check-in at the clinic.

At Children's Colorado, one of our goals is to create healthier communities through the population health approach. We invest resources into keeping kids out of our hospital through preventative programs and partnerships, and by addressing all aspects of their care.

Why community health partnerships are critical for kids

By partnering with primary care providers, schools and community-based organizations who have similar goals to improve child health, we can work together to reduce illness and improve the health and well-being of children in our community.

Community Health CHAI Partnerships.jpg

To learn more about how we're partnering with our community, email

Our community health priorities

Children's Colorado conducts regular assessments to better understand the current state of children's health. Based on ongoing conversations with our community, we've identified mental health as the top priority to focus our work.

Learn how we work with our local community to identify and prioritize children's most pressing health needs through our Community Health Needs Assessment.

Add your voice

We host events and opportunities for community members to share feedback and perspectives on child health needs in our communities. Please return to this web page to learn about upcoming events. Or, speak up for kids by contacting your leaders and lawmakers through our Child Health Champions Action Center.

Truck backing into Children's Hospital Colorado.

Connecting our community with the resources they need

Patients, families and community members can more easily navigate the complex system of social services in their area by using our tool, Resource Hub.

Search for social services by zip code

Graphic that reads: Lifting Children Up - Our Policy and Advocacy Priorities

Healthier kids through public policy

Public policy decisions can dramatically shape the health of children, for better or worse. That’s why we speak up on their behalf – year after year.

Learn about our priorities for 2023

Child health in the news

  • Colorado Sun
    Addressing mental health challenges of children during COVID-19
    May 03, 2020

    It’s normal for children and teens to feel frightened and confused during a public health crisis like COVID-19. Dr. Jessica Hawks shares tips for calming their anxiety and encouraging healthy communication throughout the pandemic.

  • Denverite
    Children’s Colorado Health Pavilion announces Resource Connect
    December 06, 2019

    The program provides families with resources on food, housing and other challenges not always thought of as medical, but that largely impact health.

  • CBS4
    Impact of child and teen vaping in Colorado
    August 29, 2019

    Public health agencies have identified hundreds of vaping-related respiratory illnesses across the country. Pediatric pulmonologist Robin Deterding, MD, explains the common symptoms in these cases and what all kids should know about the risks of e-cigarettes.