1. Franz, Berkeley PhD
  2. Flint, Julia MA
  3. Cronin, Cory E. PhD


Context: There is growing evidence that social factors contribute disproportionately to health outcomes in the United States as compared with health care services. As a result, nonprofit hospitals are incorporating strategies to address social needs into their Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-mandated community benefit work. Much of the research base on this subject, however, has focused on the efforts of adult-serving hospitals.


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether communities surrounding children's hospitals are unique with regard to social needs and categorize how children's hospitals are addressing social needs in their IRS-mandated community benefit work.


Methods: Using county-level health and economic data, we compared community characteristics of children's hospital counties with the national average. We then coded and analyzed the community benefit reports of all nonprofit children's hospitals in the United States to categorize the different strategies that hospitals adopt to address social needs.


Results: Children's hospitals (N = 168) serve communities with greater social needs than the national average. In terms of community benefit investments, children's hospitals were more likely to identify social needs in their community health needs assessment than adult-serving hospitals, but still less than half identified or addressed 1 or more social needs. Children's hospitals were more likely to adopt interventions that address broader population health rather than strategies that focus on clinical services or children and adolescents in particular.


Conclusions: Pediatric health care institutions have a profound opportunity to reduce health disparities by altering the social environments in which children develop. Policy makers and scholars should provide support and resources to increase community benefit investments in this area.