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Bright Futures Website Announced

Posted: August 11, 2009

PHOTO: Bright futures website

The Virginia Department of Health, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and James Madison University, has announced the availability of a new web site about child health and development. The site, http://www.healthyfuturesva.com/, is an electronic version of Bright Futures Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents – commonly referred to as Bright Futures. The web site project is the first widespread effort to make Bright Futures accessible to parents and caregivers.

Bright Futures is a framework for well-child health care that is based on promotion of normal development and anticipatory guidance – helping parents and families know what to expect next in their child’s growth and development. Bright Futures is comprised of a series of themes, such as promoting mental health, healthy weight, oral health, safety and injury prevention, and child development. Each theme describes what children and families need related to that topic as the child grows from infancy to late adolescence.

Additionally, Bright Futures describes well-child care in terms of periodic visits to the health care professional. Each visit addresses the recommended physical examination and any tests appropriate for that age. It also explores in some detail the anticipatory guidance that parents should be provided at that visit, consistent with the themes.

Bright Futures is built on the principle that parents and families should be active partners in the well-child care their children receive from health care professionals; in order to be active partners, parents and other caregivers need to be informed and feel confident about asking questions, sharing observations, and raising concerns. The web site is composed of a series of videos (three to five minutes in length) that “personify” the Bright Futures information related to anticipatory guidance. Each video has an accompanying text of similar information that can be printed. There is also a section of the site where additional information, such as brochures and fact sheets, is posted.

Although the target audience is parents and caregivers, health and human service professionals who are not familiar with Bright Futures should also find it useful. Anyone who works with parents and families – parent educators, case managers, child care providers – should benefit from the information. The site is a resource for well-researched information that professionals can offer to parents or caregivers.

The first phase of the web site was developed with funding from USDA through the Virginia WIC Program, and covers the recommended pediatric visits from prenatal to age four. It also includes the themes of promoting child development, healthy weight, healthy nutrition, physical activity, oral health, and safety and injury prevention for children under age five. Phase II of the site will complete the remaining visits and themes, and will be developed over the next year with funding from multiple grants.

Originally funded by the federal Maternal Child Health Bureau, updating and promoting Bright Futures is now under the auspices of the AAP. The Virginia Department of Health adopted Bright Futures as the standard of well-child care in 2001. It has also been recognized as a standard by the Departments of Education, Medical Assistance Services, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and Social Services.

"The Bright Futures web is truly a team effort," noted Rhonda Zingraff, Director of the JMU Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS), "utilizing the talents of dozens of JMU faculty and staff, as well as local talent including television and radio personalities, professional actors, writers, videographers, editors, and area technology firms." She added, "I would particularly commend the efforts of Rich Ingram of the JMU College of Education for providing the creative spark and technical guidance for the project, and to Laura Brennan of IIHHS for her capable management in coordinating the project's many elements."

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For further information on this article, contact Rhonda Zingraff (zingrarm@jmu.edu).