Color & Control:

A parent’s perspective for better child health information

By Chrissy Smith and Michelle Chan

As parents, where do you turn for reliable health information to help your sick child in the middle of the night? How do you decide when to call the doctor, visit the emergency room or treat your child at home?

Two University of Alberta research programs—Translating Evidence in Child Health to Enhance Outcomes (ECHO Research) and Alberta Research Centre for Health Evidence (ARCHE)—are changing the way health resources are developed for families and caregivers. Under Dr. Shannon Scott and Dr. Lisa Hartling, the resources developed by ECHO and ARCHE provide health information based on the latest research about the symptoms of common childhood conditions, how to manage them at home and when to seek care.

The resources combine storytelling with interactive infographics, animated videos and online storybooks to communicate health messages in a way that is clear and understandable to parents. All of the resources are developed in collaboration with parents through the Pediatric Parents’ Advisory Group (P-PAG).

Improving outcomes

The P-PAG is comprised of parents, legal guardians and grandparents across Alberta who are seeking to contribute to child health research. Established in 2016, members serve as advisors to ECHO and ARCHE by providing advice and feedback on research aimed at improving child health outcomes.

P-PAG members meet regularly to provide feedback, advice and knowledge from a parent’s perspective on resources to help families learn about common childhood conditions, including bronchiolitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), croup, fever and ear infections. Participants engage in lively discussions and comment on the aesthetics, language, length, relevance and usefulness of each digital resource. The research team then refines the resources based on the feedback provided.

Developing resources

P-PAG members are involved in the resource-development process from start to finish so that when the resources are ready to be shared with the wider community, they truly resonate with families and caregivers. By involving parents throughout the process, the research team are able to produce reliable, evidence-based health information other parents can easily use and understand.

The P-PAG is currently being expanded into a Pediatric Parents’ Advisory Network (P-PAN), which will include parents, legal guardians and grandparents from across Canada. Members
will form a virtual network and provide online feedback about research that aims to improve child health outcomes.

Get involved

If you would like to help shape health information for other parents and are interested in getting involved, please visit (P-PAG) or (P-PAN).

Chrissy Smith is the mother of two and the chair of the P-PAG at the University of Alberta.

Michelle Chan is a stakeholder engagement and research coordinator for ECHO and ARCHE. She has a PhD in psychology from the University of Alberta.

Helpful resources

Visit to view infographics, videos and e-books on the topics below.

Bronchiolitis is a viral infection, commonly caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, that affects the lower part of the lungs. It mainly affects babies and young children under two years and is very contagious. Learn the symptoms of bronchiolitis, how to manage it at home and when to seek emergency care.

Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections of the urinary tract (the kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra). They can occur at any stage of life and the symptoms may differ depending on your child’s age. Find out more about symptoms, when to seek medical care and how to manage and prevent UTIs in children.

Croup, a common respiratory illness that is caused by a viral infection in the airways. Accompanied by a barky cough and respiratory distress, this illness is most common in children from birth to six years of age, peaking at two years of age. Discover the signs and symptoms of croup, and what to do if you are a parent or family dealing with a child who has croup.

Fevers are the body’s natural response to infection. It can be scary when your child has a fever, but fevers will not hurt your child. Learn how to take your child’s temperature, manage their symptoms and when to seek health care.

Ear infections, also known as acute otitis media (or middle-ear infections), are infections caused by viruses or bacteria. Find out more about the symptoms of ear infections, as well as how to manage those symptoms and when to seek care.

Needle pokes are one of the most common sources of pain for children seeking emergency medical care. Discover useful tips for children who may need a
needle poke.

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