EMPOWER Curriculum: Teaching Effective Use of Community Resources for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Publication ID Published Volume
9993 January 8, 2015 11


EMPOWER is an experiential curriculum intended to ‘empower’ providers to connect families with effective community resources. The target audience includes residents or medical students with an interest in primary care or chronic care. The curriculum is divided into three sessions with an interim problem-based learning activity between the second and third sessions. The first seminar focuses on developing an understanding of Life Course Theory, including how events throughout the life course impact later health outcomes and may be modulated by the provision of community resources. The second seminar introduces skills in needs assessment and strategies to locate and perform a quality assessment of community resources. The problem-based learning assignment allows learners to practice the skills learned in the previous two seminars with a family. The third and final session involves a review of the problem-based learning assignment and mapping of selected resources identified through the learners’ assignments by visiting the resources within the community.

The EMPOWER curriculum has been implemented by a third-year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics in our pediatric resident Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics rotation. This fellow, and another faculty member, have run the three seminars successfully for 10 cycles of resident rotators. In addition, this fellow has experience running a similar version of the curriculum within a pediatric resident Advocacy Rotation at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh over the course of one year. The fellow has since joined the faculty at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and will implement the curriculum within the resident Advocacy Rotation there.

We have performed a preliminary evaluation of the impact of the curriculum on our learners. A convenience sample of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore pediatric residents during 2013 – 2014 Academic Year were invited to participate in an evaluation of the EMPOWER Curriculum. Each resident participated in the curriculum and completed a de-novo survey instrument created to assess self-report of knowledge, comfort level and behavior before and after the curriculum. Unique identifying numbers were assigned to the surveys to preserve anonymity. Comparisons between pre- and post-test responses were performed with the McNemar’s test of paired proportions. The evaluation was exempted by the Einstein IRB.

Following the intervention, significantly higher proportions of residents reported feeling knowledgeable about CYSHCN (50% vs. 89%, p = < .01) and said they would ask about community resources (25% vs. 54%, p = .04) and check resource quality (4% vs. 29%, p = .02). In addition, higher proportions were comfortable discussing income, personal safety, housing, organizations, transition, and respite.

In summary, findings suggested positive effects of participation in the EMPOWER Curriculum. Thus, it may be a useful tool to teach pediatric residents about coordination of community resources for CYSHCN.


Clark M, Hobson-Rohrer W, Benenson B, Stein R. EMPOWER curriculum: teaching effective use of community resources for children with special health care needs. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2015;11:9993. http://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9993

Educational Objectives

Learners exposed to the EMPOWER Curriculum will be able to:

  1. Apply the Life Course perspective to children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN).
  2. Perform a needs assessment for community resources in CYSHCN.
  3. Locate community resources for these patients.
  4. Perform a quality assessment of these resources.
  5. Communicate information about relevant, quality resources to families.


  • Children with Special Health Care Needs, Community Resources, Pediatric Residents, Community Health Services, Life Course Theory, Social Determinants of Health

Prior Scholarly Dissemination

The curriculum has not been submitted elsewhere. The evaluation of the curriculum was submitted to the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, and some of the authors presented aspects of the curriculum in a workshop for the Society for Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics.


Clark M. Benenson B. Stein REK. The EMPOWER Curriculum: Expanding DBP into the Community. Society for Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Annual Meeting. Baltimore, MD. September 27, 2013.

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ISSN 2374-8265