CCUSA submitted comments today in response to a request from the Early Learning Interagency Policy Board (IPB) for feedback to inform a federal policy statement on health promotion in early learning. To inform a response, CCUSA solicited feedback from member agencies with leading early childhood programs, including Head Start, Early Head Start, day care, and parenting programs. On average, Catholic Charities staff who provided feedback had more than 22 years of experience in early childhood programs. These staff drew on their experience to provide concrete suggestions to improve strategies to integrate health in early childhood programs:
“In order to achieve their full potential, children have a core set of needs – nurturing relationships, nutritious foods, adequate clothing, sleep, exercise, access to health care, safe communities, access to quality education, proper adult guidance, safe communities. These needs are all interrelated and cannot be approached as silos.” (Chicago, IL)
“A healthy child is a reflection of a healthy family. A healthy family is able to meet its basic needs for food, shelter, income, education, and health care. Messages should be differentiated based on the channels used and population segment being targeted. People in health care need to see the health of the child holistically – and the family as a system. People in early childhood development need to see the needs of the family (e.g. their living situation) as an element of the child’s development. People in the education community need to understand the environmental factors (e.g. stress, trauma) that are barriers to learning and cognitive development.” (San Francisco, CA)
In light of the long-standing expertise and ongoing work of our member agencies in the area of early childhood development, education, and health, CCUSA urged the IPB to consider our feedback during the formulation of a policy statement on promoting health in early childhood programs. In particular, this statement should consider the needs of low-income families in this area and focus on holistic, accessible approaches that engage parents, families, and communities in culturally sensitive ways.