Deborah Frank Recognized with Leadership in Advocacy Award


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jeff Van Ness, (202) 204-7515




WASHINGTON – The Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) today named Dr. Deborah Frank, a physician at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and director of the hospital’s Grow Clinic for Children, as the winner of its 2017 Leadership in Advocacy Award.

The Grow Clinic is an outpatient specialty clinic that provides comprehensive medical, nutritional, developmental and social services, as well as dietary assistance, to children diagnosed with Failure to Thrive (FTT). These young patients do not meet expected standards of growth, failing to gain weight and height at a healthy rate. Children with FTT can develop learning and emotional disorders, delayed or impaired language and motor skills, serious illnesses and long-lasting growth failure.

Dr. Frank founded the Grow Clinic in 1984, while working as a pediatrician at Boston City Hospital (now BMC) after caring for an increasing number of malnourished young patients and identifying food insecurity in children as a growing problem in the community. At the time, about half of children at BMC were diagnosed with FTT; today, the rate is less than 5 percent.

The children treated at the Grow Clinic are among the neediest in the state: 1 in 10 children receiving care at the Clinic are homeless and live in shelters. 3 in 10 are younger than twelve months of age. Fortunately, the vast majority of children who are treated at the Clinic over the average period of twelve months show improvement; about 80 percent show a significant weight improvement.

“Dr. Frank does more than just treat individuals in need; her concern and compassion go beyond the hospital and out into the community to demand and effect actual change,” said Susan Coakley, President, Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, who nominated Dr. Frank for the award. “Dr. Frank has devoted her life to fighting disparities in health care, and to advocating for vulnerable children who would otherwise not have a voice. On behalf of our members, I am grateful for her work in the Boston community and beyond.”

In an effort to assure that food insecurity and health disparities in general are better understood and addressed at the policy level, she and other researchers founded Children’s HealthWatch, the outreach and research arm of the Grow Clinic. Children’s HealthWatch is a national network of physicians and researchers that collects real-time data on infants and toddlers in five urban hospitals across the country. They analyze and share data with academics, legislators and the public to help them better understand the social and economic factors impacting child health. Most recently, Children’s HealthWatch began its Housing Prescription as Health Care initiative, which screens families for severe housing insecurity and connects them with community-based solutions designed to meet their unique needs.

“We are understanding more and more every day that the underlying social determinants are the most powerful way to avert health issues before they grow serious,” said ACAP CEO Margaret A. Murray. “Dr. Frank has known this—and lived this—for decades. We couldn’t be prouder to honor her work today.”

Dr. Frank was honored at a national meeting of Safety Net Health Plan government relations professionals in Washington. For more information, visit ACAP’s Web site at

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About ACAP
ACAP represents 59 nonprofit Safety Net Health Plans in 28 states, which collectively serve more than seventeen million people enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other publicly-supported health programs. For more information, visit