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Loidl, Verena; Hamacher, Karina; Lang, Martin; Laub, Otto; Schwettmann, Lars; Grill, Eva (2023): Impact of a pediatric primary care health-coaching program on change in health-related quality of life in children with mental health problems: results of the PrimA-QuO cohort study. BMC Primary Care, 24 (1). ISSN 2731-4553

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Mental health problems (MHP) have a considerable negative impact on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in children and their families. A low threshold Health Coaching (HC) program has been introduced to bring MH services to primary care and strengthen the role of pediatricians. It comprised training concepts as a hands-on approach for pediatricians, standardization of diagnosis and treatment, and extended consultations. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential effects of the HC on HRQoL in children with MHP and their parents.

We used data from the PrimA-QuO cohort study conducted in Bavaria, Germany from November 2018 until November 2019, with two assessments one year apart. We included children aged 17 years or younger with developmental disorder of speech and language, non-organic enuresis, head and abdominal pain, and conduct disorder. All included children were already part of the Starke Kids (SK) program, a more general preventive care program, which includes additional developmental check-ups for children enrolled in the program. In addition, treatment according to the HC guidelines can be offered to children and adolescents with mental health problems, who are already enrolled in the SK program. These children form the intervention group; while all others (members of BKK and SK but not HC) served as controls. HRQoL in children was assessed using the KINDL questionnaire. Parental HRQoL was measured by the visual analogue scale. To analyze the effects of the intervention on children´s HRQoL over the 1-year follow-up period, we used linear mixed effects models.

We compared 342 children receiving HC with 767 control patients. We could not detect any effects of the HC on HRQoL in children and their parents. This may be attributed to the relatively high levels of children´s HRQoL at baseline, or because of highly motivated pediatricians for the controls because of the selection of only participant within the Starke Kids program. Generally, HRQoL was lower in older children (-0.42 points; 95% CI [-0.73; -0.11]) and in boys (-1.73 points; 95% CI [-3.11; -0.36]) when reported by proxy. Parental HRQoL improved significantly over time (2.59 points; 95% CI [1.29; 3.88]).

Although this study was not able to quantitatively verify the positive impact of this HC that had been reported by a qualitative study with parents and other stakeholders, and a cost-effectiveness study, the approach of the HC may still be valid and improve health care of children with MHP and should be evaluated in a more general population.

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