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New data from Cook Children's points to community health needs in North Texas

The sign outside Cook Children's Medical Center.
Miranda Suarez
Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

Cook Children’s Health Care System discussed the state of children’s health in North Texas with data from more than 5,700 parents across the region.

A regional child health summit led by Cook Children’s Health Care System highlighted community health needs for families across North Texas.

The hospital surveyed parents and community leaders. They also gathered responses from special populations, which they defined as families with an undocumented member or families experiencing homelessness.

More than 5,700 parents across eight counties, including Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties, contributed to the survey.

Chris Pedigo is the senior vice president with the Center for Children’s Health. The center is the branch of the health system which oversaw the health data collection.

She estimates the team spent over 1,000 hours on the project. Pedigo said the findings will inform the health system’s programs and next steps moving forward.

“The importance to Cook Children’s is obvious,” Pedigo said. “The time, the dedication, the resources, the staff. [It’s] a very significant undertaking for our team and very, very, very important to our organization.”

Cook Children’s identified four key health areas of concern

The hospital looked at four key areas in the survey: general health, oral health, injury prevention and home safety, and mental health.

According to the survey results, while most children between 0 and 17 were both covered by health insurance and had very good or excellent health, that left more than 137,000 children without access to necessary medical care.

The three biggest reasons why children couldn’t access care were the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of insurance coverage for services, and a lack of providers in the community.

Hospital leaders also added mental health was the top concern for parents and community leaders, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know it’s a significant need for families,” Pedigo said. “It has been historically, but it’s even more present now.”

Six percent of children in the eight-county area did not access mental health care they needed in the past year, mostly because of insurance coverage, difficulty getting appointments and a lack of services in their area. In anational survey on children’s health by the United States Census Bureau, the percentage in Texas was closer to 2%.

To Pedigo, this issue is “requiring parents, health care providers, and schools to come together to recognize the needs of the mental health our children have and are faced with day to day.”

Using survey data to create new services across Cook Children’s Health Care System

Community leaders and parents also weighed in on the top three needs for health services moving forward. Parents said they need more options for preventative health care, treatment for short-term illnesses like cold and flu, and vaccines.

Community leaders said they were looking for more mental health treatment, child abuse and neglect, and preventative health care services.

Next steps for this data include a follow-up health summit in February 2022 diving into the stories parents and community leaders shared in the data collection.

Pedigo said they are also planning local summits in Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Wise and the Prosper area to address these health gaps in the spring.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.