How the UCSF School of Nursing is Changing Health Care in California

UCSF School of Nursing professors (from left), Linda Franck, Abbey Alkon, Valerie Yerger and Ruth Malone are working on state-funded projects designed to better the health of Californians.

By Milenko Martinovich/March 2021

Fulfilling the diverse health care needs of Californians requires innovative solutions grounded in evidence-based research.

As it has for decades, California continues to rely on the expertise of UCSF School of Nursing faculty to supply these solutions. The School has secured more than $18 million to fund active state projects that aim to improve the health of newborns, keep children safe and healthy in child care settings, and end tobacco’s dangerous influence, among others. Taking the lead in public health initiatives is a vital role the School’s researchers readily embrace. 

“Being a part of the University of California system, I feel as a faculty member we are obliged to give back to our state,” said Abbey Alkon, School of Nursing professor and director of the California Childcare Health Program. “We have an important mission to serve the people of California.”

Providing a Healthy Start

A top priority for California public health officials is ensuring healthy starts for newborns. The state has about 50,000 vulnerable births each year — children born to low-income families who lack access to resources. Quality home visiting services could help reduce that figure.

In 2019, California implemented a state home visiting program, designed to support positive health outcomes for pregnant and parenting people, families and infants born into poverty. Known as the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Home Visiting Program, it offers prenatal, infant and toddler care, nutrition, and child development screening and assessments, among other services.  

Linda Franck, the Jack & Elaine Koehn Endowed Chair in Pediatric Nursing at the School of Nursing, is leading a team that is measuring that program’s effectiveness under a $3 million contract with the California Department of Social Services.

Franck, along with co-principal investigators Jennifer Rienks, Linda Remy and Geraldine Oliva from the UCSF School of Medicine, are analyzing large amounts of data, including birth certificates and hospital records, to measure health outcomes. They are examining the delivery of services, and the experiences and satisfaction of providers and clients. They are also examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the program staff and clients.

“The hope is that when we present our report to the state, they will use the findings to support the most effective and meaningful aspects of the home visiting services and provide access for more California families,” Franck said.

Read the full story in the School's Science of Caring online publication.