Community-Based Pediatric Palliative Care: How Services Support Children's and Families' Quality of Life

J Palliat Med. 2023 Dec;26(12):1634-1643. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2023.0147. Epub 2023 Nov 16.


Background: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Pediatric Palliative Care Network (PPCN) provides Community-Based Pediatric Palliative Care (CBPPC) to children with life-limiting conditions and their families. CBPPC services aim to improve children and families' quality of life (QOL). Objectives: To identify perceived domains of QOL important for children and families and to understand whether and how CBPPC supports QOL. Design: A community-based participatory research framework was used to develop recruitment and data collection materials for eight focus groups and seven interviews. Collected data were transcribed and analyzed with an inductive approach. Setting/Subjects: A convenience sample of 33 PPCN caregivers, 20 providers, and seven key informants, including policymakers, community organizations, and hospital-based clinicians, were interviewed virtually in the United States. Measurements: Perceived QOL domains for children and families, respectively, and perceived impact of CBPPC services on QOL. Results: Reported QOL domains described as important for children were socialization/community integration and accessibility; expression/play; and physical wellness. Control or autonomy, psycho-emotional wellness, and self-care were identified as important for families. Clinical services were described as "integral to mental health" through offered spiritual support; advocacy in the community; and education. PPCN's integrative services were noted as distractions from pain and helped improve communication and bonding. Sibling support and bereavement care were also mentioned as impactful on QOL. Conclusions: Family-centered CBPPC was described as supportive of children's and families' QOL. Future studies should consider using population-based QOL measures, leveraging the QOL domains identified through this analysis and other outcome measures in a cost-effectiveness analysis.

Keywords: children with life-limiting conditions; clinical services; community-based pediatric palliative care; family; integrative therapy; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Community Health Services
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Pain
  • Palliative Care* / psychology
  • Quality of Life