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.

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