Every year, millions of children must face chronic illnesses or injuries. Pediatric illness and injury place children at-risk for impaired behavioral and physical health. Limited resources can prevent children and their families from obtaining the support they need. To meet this need, our team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia developed The Cellie Coping Kit. The Cellie Kit is an accessible, low-cost, and evidence-based tool to help children and their families cope effectively with illness and injury. Launched in 2013, the Cellie Coping Kit Program has since aided over 500 children in navigating cancer diagnoses and treatments. More recently, Cellie Kits have been created for children living with sickle cell disease and children recovering from injury. The Cellie Kit Program seeks to bridge the gap between behavioral and physical health, as these two factors play an equally imperative role in children’s well-being. The Cellie Kit includes the signature stuffed toy, affectionately referred to as “Cellie,” a book for caregivers, and a deck of coping cards for dealing with particularly challenging illness or injury related stressors. Together, children and their caregivers identify challenges, and implement behavioral strategies to reduce their distress, with the overall goal of improved behavioral and physical health.
The Cellie Coping Kit Program epitomizes innovation by delivering evidence-based strategies to reduce distress related to medical diagnoses and care through a creative, engaging, accessible tool. The Cellie Kit Program addresses the integration of behavioral and physical health in an unprecedented way, providing strategies to deal with physical and emotional symptoms related to disease or injury. Further, the Cellie Kit helps to extend the reach of mental health providers as it can be used independently by children and parents. Unlike other resources, the Cellie Kit is tailored to each child’s illness or injury experience, allowing families to determine the most important issues. The Cellie Kit can be used across settings (e.g., home, school, hospital) and is available at the time when the child needs it. Thus, this revolutionary coping tool can help to ensure children impacted by illness or injury are supported during and after medical care.
The Cellie Coping Kit Program promotes the recognition of the strong impact of behavioral health symptoms on child health using a non-threatening, de-stigmatizing approach. The majority of children with behavioral health needs do not come to the attention of mental health providers; thus, health care settings have an opportunity to recognize challenges in children and their families and provide support. Large-scale implementation of the Cellie Kit Program across health care networks can begin to bring attention to behavioral health needs and give providers a tool to help support their pediatric patients and families. By giving children, parents, and medical providers a tool (i.e., The Cellie Coping Kit) to begin to discuss distress related to their disease, injury, and or treatment, providers may be able to better support children’s overall health.
Our team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is strongly committed to ensuring sustainability of the Cellie Coping Kit Program. To date, the Cellie Coping Kit Program has achieved sustainability through partnerships with foundations, private donors, other hospitals, and various internal fundraising efforts. For example, we have partnered with The Coach Wags Memorial Foundation to ensure all children with cancer at our hospital receive a Cellie Kit at no cost. Our team has also hosted a number of internal fundraising efforts to raise funds for Cellie Kits for sickle cell disease and injury. In addition to donations and fundraising, several pediatric medical institutions have purchased Cellie Kits for their patients. Moving forward, we aim to continue to build relationships to engage other organizations, health care facilities, hospitals, and individuals to promote the availability of the Cellie Coping Kit.
The Cellie Coping Kit Program is designed to be able to be adapted for numerous pediatric populations with illnesses or injuries, thus having the potential to impact millions of families. Since inception, we have created three versions of the Cellie Coping Kit: cancer, sickle cell disease, and injury. Additionally, the Cellie Coping Kit for Cancer has been translated into Spanish. These facts alone attest to the replicability of the Cellie Coping Kit. The program itself has been implemented at five hospitals across the nation, which reinforces the feasibility of making these resources available in a variety of settings. Health care providers can quickly learn distribution techniques to aid families in using the kit; alternatively, families can independently implement the strategies in the Cellie Kit. The design of the Cellie Coping Kit Program is ideally suited for broad replication.
The ongoing Cellie Coping Kit Program evaluation is two-pronged: 1) evaluations of each new version of the kit are conducted with children and families, and 2) program reach is tracked. Specific to evaluating each kit: We examine which behavioral strategies families use and what families learn from the kits. For example, in children with cancer or sickle cell disease, we found that using the Cellie Kits improves parent-child communication about their disease, teaches children and parents new coping strategies, and helps to normalize their disease experience. Research on the injury version of the kit is planned. Specific to Cellie Program Reach: We track how many kits are provided to families, each hospital that orders kits, and the locations of the kits (by state and internationally). Over the past two years, more than 500 kits for cancer and 75 kits for sickle cell disease have been distributed to children.