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 five priority areas in which to focus our work.

Additional needs include care for children with special needs, safe neighborhoods and oral health.

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

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 in 2021

Learn what we achieved in the 2021 session

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


Download a copy of the Child Health Advocacy Awareness Calendar (.pdf) for tips on how to keep kids healthy and strong all year long.

Children's Colorado in the news

  • CNN
    How the pandemic worsened children’s mental health
    julio 22, 2021

    The pandemic has pushed children's mental health to a "crisis point." Watch as a child and adolescent psychologist, a child health policy advocate and a member of the hospital's youth action board discuss rising anxiety and depression, policy solutions that increase access to care, and what has helped one teen through the past year.

  • CBS4
    Children of all ages facing mental health challenges
    mayo 26, 2021

    Anxiety and stress have skyrocketed among children since the pandemic began. Dr. Jenna Glover, a clinical psychologist, shares what parents should look out for in their children and ways to help them if they’re struggling. Learn more.

  • Colorado Public Radio
    Student mental health crisis as a result of COVID-19
    abril 05, 2021

    Kate Hartman is a 7th-grader in Denver and a patient ambassador for Children’s Colorado. She struggled with mental health issues in the past, and like many students her age, felt sad and isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read her story and why it’s important for kids and parents to seek connectedness during this time.