Polly Arango: A Remembrance

Published:January 31, 2011DOI:
      In 2009, at the request of Polly Arango, a group was brought together by the Division of Services for Children with Special Health Care Needs at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) for the purpose of reviewing the progress made in building family-centered care principles into all MCHB programs. Polly believed strongly in partnership as a core principle of family-centered care, and the group who joined her that day wish to honor and applaud her for the tremendous contributions she made to the field. One of the outcomes of that meeting was a paper in this issue, authored by Polly, which was in the process of publication at the time of her unexpected death. Polly was a remarkable woman and leader as evidenced in many tributes from local, state, national, and international sources, and from family, friends, providers, and policy and political leaders. (See the tributes at She was an outstanding advocate for children, particularly for those, who like her son Nick, had special health care needs. But first and foremost she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a cherished friend who lived the family-centered principles she helped to articulate. In the late 1970s, I came to the federal MCHB with the mission to help rewrite the Title V legislative requirement of the Social Security Act to diagnose and treat “crippled children.” In 1989, that language was replaced by the requirement “to facilitate the development of family-centered, community-based systems of care.” Polly’s role in that transformation was one of outstanding leadership, from the formulation of the words “family-centered” to the development of the principles of family-centered care. She led the creation of a national family-led advocacy organization, Family Voices, and served as its first executive director. She was a member of the federal work group on the definition of children with special health care needs. Throughout her career, Polly worked tirelessly to embed family-centered care principles in the medical home concept, Bright Futures, quality of care measures, health care reform, and community systems. She served on the boards of the highly respected National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement—and so much more. It’s fair to say that Polly did indeed play a transformational role in the redesign of pediatrics, which now recognizes that the health of children must be addressed in the context of their families and the communities in which they live.
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