Giving Kids a Healthy Start

Posted October 11, 2013, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A 2009 health scan revealed a number of issues for young children in Atlanta's Neighborhood Planning Unit V, including access to and participation in health insurance coverage; risk of optimal growth and development due to low birth weight; teen pregnancy; late or no prenatal care; infant mortality; asthma; obesity; and chronic health issues such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

In response, the Atlanta Civic Site partnered with Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to launch Healthy Beginnings System of Care in 2011, with the goal of improving the health of infants and children enrolled at Educare Atlanta. A nurse from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Hughes Spalding, called a health navigator, coordinates the program at Educare Atlanta. She helps families of young children navigate the health care system by connecting them to child health insurance, helping parents build and maintain relationships with their child’s primary care physician and ensuring child immunizations and developmental screens are up-to-date.

Many Educare Atlanta students face a number of chronic health issues; 31% suffer from asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. The Georgia Department of Public Health is piloting an asthma training program at Educare Atlanta, providing teachers, staff and parents with the knowledge and skills to protect children. In addition, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is implementing its School Flag Program at the school to increase awareness of the impact of daily air-quality conditions on children’s health.

As a part of Healthy Beginnings, kids also are screened for developmental skills using the Ages & Stages questionnaires. These evidence-based screening tools are employed at regular intervals over the course of a child’s enrollment at Educare Atlanta in partnership with parents, teachers and the family support specialists to track development and identify and address issues early. Screening results are shared with the child’s physician and used as part of the physician’s overall health assessment.

This approach relies on a network of strategic partnerships, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Hughes Spalding, Atlanta Public Schools, the Center for Black Women’s Wellness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Choice Healthcare Network, Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, among others. The partners hope to spread this health model throughout NPU-V, Atlanta and Georgia. 

Learn how Educare Atlanta's health services helped get much-needed medical care for one child — and a safer home for her family.