We have had extraordinary opportunities at the local, state and national levels to speak with policy makers in an effort to effect change to promote the optimal healthy development of children.
One of those opportunities took place recently in Hartford where Connecticut Children’s Medical Center hosted a breakfast for state lawmakers that focused on our community child health efforts.
Whether it’s at the local, state or national level, our messages to policy makers all revolve around the critical issues and policies that are so important to ensure children’s health.
It’s all about the system.
If we are going to be successful in supporting families in promoting their children’s health and development, we must engage all of the sectors that are so critically important to family support.
Relevant public policy issues certainly relate to child health, early care and education, family support, and the need to make access to these critical programs and services as feasible as possible.
In addition, there are policy issues around the multitude of other factors that impact children’s health and development. They relate to healthy housing, transportation, and food and nutrition which are all sectors plotted on the flower diagram developed by the Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health that illustrates the complex layering that must be taken into account for system building.
So, in talking to policy makers, we emphasize the importance of considering all aspects of the system that must be in place in order for children to succeed and families to optimally support them.
We are continually emphasizing the importance of different agencies working together to blend administrative and financial resources to achieve common goals, the importance of not exclusively focusing on children with the most complex of medical conditions but expanding that focus to also include all children and families, especially those who are vulnerable and at risk.
Also, we make sure to point out this type of work does yield rewards, including financial benefits.
There is a return on investment but that return takes years and years to accrue. The investments that we make in child health, early care and education, and family support during the early childhood years result in savings in other sectors like special education, behavioral health, mental health, and even juvenile justice and the corrections system.
We don’t really have bookkeeping that enables us to look at our expenditures early in life and align them with those return on investments later in life so we encourage our policy makers to look at the shorter term outcomes that we know ultimately correlate with long-term success.
For example, if home visiting programs strengthen families by enabling them to better understand their children’s development, better access community resources, and better find concrete support in times of need, we know those positive outcomes will contribute to the very long-term, elusive outcomes that we ultimately seek.
Policy makers should have confidence, on the basis of these proximate measures, in the success of these initiatives and support these programs and services to best support families.
Eminet Abebe Gurganus, MPH, supports the system-building efforts of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health through proposal development and program management, and oversees the Practice Quality Improvement program. Learn more »