PolicyLab Established to Bridge Research, Practice, Policy


The goal of pediatric research is to improve the care of children; however, too often, major research findings do not move beyond journal publications to make a direct impact on pediatric systems of care. Significant resources are needed to use research outcomes to inform policy and program interventions that will improve the health and well-being of the most vulnerable children.

Children’s Hospital has established PolicyLab to improve systems of pediatric healthcare through an innovative and comprehensive strategy of interdisciplinary research, program evaluation, and policy work. PolicyLab aims to leverage Children’s Hospital’s clinical and research leadership role in informing child health programs and policy solutions to make a broad and significant impact in local and national systems of care. PolicyLab is led by David Rubin, M.D., M.S.C.E.; Susmita Pati, M.D., M.P.H.; and Kathleen Noonan, J.D.; all affiliates of the Division of General Pediatrics.

The Pew Charitable Trusts awarded PolicyLab a $1 million grant to combine cutting-edge research with the strategic capacity to fuel policy and program innovation in child health and well-being. Pew’s support enables the implementation of three inaugural projects that focus on issues that require immediate policy change in the Philadelphia region and throughout the nation and are subjects in which Children’s Hospital investigators have extensive expertise.

The inaugural topics include reducing inappropriate psychotropic drug use among children in foster care, addressing the care of children with complex chronic conditions both within the hospital and in their homes and communities, and increasing access to public assistance in child-health programs. These projects lay the groundwork for ongoing policy implementation work that follows PolicyLab’s guiding principle of “Evidence to Action.”

Children’s Hospital has designated PolicyLab as a Center of Emphasis within Stokes, anticipating that it will promote the Hospital as a trusted, neutral, and rational voice to positively affect children’s health at the policy and public education levels.

By engaging policymakers, foundation experts, and other key stakeholders who are directly involved in program advocacy and implementation, PolicyLab plans to design research approaches that guide policy reform by building or refuting a base of evidence, and to identify practice innovations that require systematic investigation.

Children’s Hospital will build PolicyLab’s infrastructure by initiating communications, hiring cross-disciplinary staff, and holding national convenings — resources that typically are not funded by traditional research grants — to support its inaugural projects. Investigations at PolicyLab will use cross-center support that encompasses a program of partnership between pediatricians, medical and social science researchers, policy experts, and health professionals; and a communications program that connects public health research outcomes and policy, leads public education efforts, hosts stakeholder meetings, and conducts follow-up policy work.

PolicyLab projects will engage end-users from the beginning of the research process to take policy research to a new level of creativity, effectiveness, and influence. This cross-center support will maximize the impact and effectiveness of projects, ensuring that research outcomes can effectively inform policy change.

The progress of PolicyLab’s efforts to move evidence to action will be measured in a variety of ways. Each individual project will have tangible and measurable outcomes. Additionally, progress toward cross-center benchmarks will be evaluated. Early benchmarks include establishing partnership with state and national policy advocates, developing policy briefs, and establishing a communications plan. The most visible form of progress will be active changes to the practices and policies that affect children’s health, driven by PolicyLab’s strategic application of study findings.