Promoting health and social equity through family navigation to prevention and early intervention services: a proof of concept study

Jeffrey Waid, Olivia Tomfohrde, Courtney Kutzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Health and social inequality are associated with multiple adverse childhood experiences including poverty, mental illness, and child maltreatment. While effective interventions currently exist for many health and social problems, large segments of the population experience barriers accessing needed services. In alignment with broader public health efforts to reduce health and social inequality in one state in the U.S.A., the current study describes the development and formative evaluation of a brief, low cost, portable model of prevention-oriented family service navigation called Navigate Your Way. Methods: Caregivers of children experiencing significant unmet health or social service needs were recruited to the study. Participants completed an initial and closing telephone interview which included measures of past and current family health and social service utilization, service barriers, parenting stress, and child internalizing/externalizing behaviors. Between interviews participants created a family service plan and received 10 weeks of telephone and web-mediated family navigation, at which time process and fidelity of implementation data were collected. Frequency and descriptive statistics are provided for participant demographic characteristics, service barriers, intervention engagement, and primary and secondary study outcomes. Paired samples t-tests examined changes in study outcomes between initial and closing telephone interviews. Results: Thirty two caregivers enrolled, twenty-nine completed the study. The age range was 20–59 (M = 39.5, SD = 10.0). The majority identified as female (96.9%, n = 31), racial/ethnic minority (56.2%, n = 18), and reported an average 10 barriers to care (M = 10.4, SD = 4.1). The most frequently reported service needs were mental health care, housing, food security, transportation, and health insurance. The mean duration of intervention delivery was 83 days. Most participants (82.8%, n = 24) were connected to one or more health or social services. Caregivers reported significant improvements to youth internalizing behaviors (d = 2.5, p =.05) and high levels of overall satisfaction with the navigation approach. Conclusion: Telephone and web-mediated service navigation is a feasible and practical approach to supporting families in rapidly connecting to health and social care. Future research investigating the efficacy and implementation of Navigate Your Way in routine settings is indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1972
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research reported in this publication was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Hatch Project #1023394), Sauer Family Foundation, Minnesota; the Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Minnesota; the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health, University of Minnesota; and the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the sponsoring organizations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Children
  • Equity
  • Families
  • Health
  • Inequality
  • Maltreatment
  • Navigation
  • Prevention
  • Social Work


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