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Improvements in Pediatric Care

January 4, 2008

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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Across the country, health experts are looking at ways to provide better services, use new technology and cut costs.

It's a challenge to do all that in a way that meets everyone's needs and we struggle daily with how to deliver care in the best way we can.

I'm Dr. William Walker, the County Health Officer and Director of Contra Costa Health Services.

I would like to talk about one area where health care has changed a lot in the past decades - health care for children - usually called pediatric care.

Years ago, before there were vaccines for childhood diseases like mumps, measles, chicken pox and polio, youngsters got seriously ill.

They were hospitalized regularly, often for long periods of time. Their family doctor visited them - usually in a small, local hospital.

Before penicillin and other more recent antibiotic drugs, admission to a hospital was often the only treatment for sick children.

Pediatric departments in hospitals were busy places in those days. Happily, now, many fewer children have to be admitted to medical facilities. They can be seen in doctors' offices and treated at home.

For really sick kids, the new strategy is to have a very specialized, high technology medical center available--they are called tertiary care facilities--and they provide upper-level treatment.

Sometimes family members point out that they have to drive further to see the child in that kind of medical center. We know that's inconvenient, but what this approach means is that sick children can receive the highest quality care from health professionals with the best equipment and the most experience.

The vast majority of doctors who see them are specialty pediatricians who spend much of their time in hospitals.

The bottom line is that what doctors and health administrators like me want for our young patients is what parents want for their sick children: the best quality care available from the most qualified professionals with the best equipment. We owe it to our children.

You can learn more about this issue and about how Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and our Health Centers are handling pediatric care on our website at

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