16 June 2022
Respecting children’s rights – one of the fundamental principles for a more successful treatment process.
Even simple decisions that affect a child’s daily life during hospitalization can significantly change their experience of the treatment process. Upon arrival at the hospital, the children are often really anxious – both the environment and the things happening around them are unknown. At such a moment, even children who can stand up for their opinions and rights on a daily basis may feel very vulnerable. It is therefore particularly important to emphasize children’s right to express their opinions, to share their experiences during the treatment process, to ask questions and to get answers to them.
The Children’s Hospital Standards of the World Health Organisation define seven areas of children’s rights. This includes high-quality healthcare that takes into account the views of children as patients, equality and non-discrimination, as well as provides access to toys and learning opportunities for all children. Awareness and participation in healthcare decision-making process must be ensured, healthcare services must be provided in a safe, clean and child-friendly environment, the right to protection against all forms of physical or mental abuse, pain relief and palliative care for children must also be ensured.
Studies elsewhere in the world show that respect for children’s rights, including allowing them to be involved in the treatment process, which is often long and extremely difficult for all parties involved, plays a key role in achieving effective results. Whereas children who do not understand what is happening to them or do not feel that they are actively involved in healthcare situations are exposed to feelings of fear, anxiety and stress and are likely to remain under-prepared for ongoing examinations and procedures. Therefore, it is important to promote the need for children to be involved in the process – by providing explanations and answers to questions, in-depth discussions, using appropriate terms, and allowing participation in decision-making. Children really appreciate being able to participate in decision-making when it comes to making small decisions, however, in case of important decisions, they value the interactions between parents and doctors.
“Art. 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children and adolescents must be heard on all issues that concern them. UNICEF Italy is proud to participate in the European project VoiCEs which translates this right into measurable actions using innovative tools. We know that one of the most delicate moments for them is when they are hospitalized, where their voices are too often ignored. Listening to their opinions and needs allows children to play a key role in their own care. VoiCEs is a way to make the voices of girls and boys, who often suffer in silence, heard and valued,” says Prof. Carmela Pace, president of UNICEF Italy.
“Hospitalization represents a very delicate moment for children, which means that it is particularly important to listen to their voices and to take into account their experience. Their direct involvement in the evaluation and improvement of care quality is an essential step for the implementation of children’s rights in the healthcare context” says Manila Bonciani, coordinator of the project from Sant’Anna School.
When children do not know exactly what will happen in a particular procedure in the hospital, how they should behave in healthcare situations, they get overwhelmed by uncertainty that causes anxiety. On the other hand, when participating in conversations with healthcare professionals, children’s self-confidence increases, they feel supported, valued and respected as personalities.
Project “VoiCEs” will strengthen children’s rights and involvement in improving healthcare services. Its target group is represented by children aged from birth to 17, and the survey will be adapted to different age groups. The obtained results will be analyzed and used to create the most positive children’s experience in health institutions both locally and internationally. The European Children’s Hospital Organization, the Italian Association of Pediatric Hospitals and the Picker Institute in Oxford are also involved in the project and will support the communication of the project’s results at European and local level.