Kids & Company Blog

Is your child sick? Need help deciding what to do? Introducing the HEAL tool for families

I had the pleasure of interviewing Pediatric Emergency physician Dr. Shirmee Doshi, to discuss the launch of a new resource to help manage common childhood illnesses and injuries that often do not require emergency department care. The Alberta Health Services “HEAL” (Health Education and Learning) Program at has easily accessible information from emergency doctors and clinicians at Alberta Children’s Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital.

The site is a great resource for research, reassurance and answers when your little ones aren’t feeling well, so we wanted to share it with our Kids & Company families.


Q: Why was building this resource a priority for Albertan doctors and medical professionals?

A: It really became a focus around five years ago when things like the H1N1 scare drove many into the emergency rooms of our hospitals and wait times got very long. We found a lot of families were coming in because they didn’t know where else to access information, highlighting the lack of credible and accessible resources before that step. We pulled together an extensive team of medical professionals and partnered with the University of Calgary Department of Pediatrics and Division of Emergency Medicine, Mount Royal University and AHS Communications to develop this program.


Q: What is the goal of the HEAL program?

A: Our first goal was building the resource and collaborating with experts to provide information that is useful, reliable and can be applied in real-life situations. We chose for it to be a website because so many people hop online when sick or injured, and it would be an easy platform for families to access before, during or after a medical visit. We have ongoing goals too; from here, we still have work to do in engaging with families to keep the site useful and updated.

Q: What are some of the illnesses and injuries included on HEAL?

A: A lot of times we see common minor illnesses in the emergency department that could be treated at home, but parents didn’t know what else to do or how serious it was. Things like croup, coughs, common colds, ear pain, nosebleeds, head injuries, vomiting and diarrhea, fever, febrile seizures and rashes are included on the website with detailed descriptions for identifying and treating, and recognizing when something does require immediate medical attention.


Q: When should someone be coming into emergency?

A: This is a tough question and dependent on the situation. Some examples are difficulty breathing, significant dehydration, persisting illness even with fluids, rest and over-the-counter treatments, or anything you know is abnormal for your child can warrant a trip to emergency. But there are resources to help you make those decisions when you’re not sure how urgent something is – the new HEAL website is obviously one. Calling Health Link Alberta at 811 to assess the situation with a trained professional is another. Visiting your family doctor or a walk-in medical clinic is another good option.


Q: What is the impact of having non-urgent cases in emergency?

A: When a child comes in with a non-urgent illness or injury, they may end up waiting long periods while the emergency teams address things like accidents or life-threatening conditions. Often their lengthy emergency trip ends with an assessment that reassures the family, provides some education and tools but rarely requires special treatment. A trip to emergency disrupts sleep (often much-needed for a sick child), school and work. In an ideal world, families have resources to make them confident in deciding what requires an emergency visit or not, and how to manage and treat non-urgent things themselves.


Q: What would you like families to know about the new HEAL resource?

A: We are looking for a lot of feedback. You’ll find a feedback link on each page, because we need to have two-way conversations about this tool to make it family-friendly, easy-to-navigate and useful. We plan to also add more media and different topics, so our ongoing team is really interested to hear from families. Best way to connect is at


Stephen Page, Registered Nurse and HEAL Project Coordinator and Dr. Shirmee Doshi, Pediatric Emergency physician



Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta and BC. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered three years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at

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