Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office), Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Early Childhood Investments (ECI) initiative, a strategic partner of the Office, and an active parent representative from ECI recently had the opportunity to participate in the All Children Thrive (ACT) Design Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. ACT, an initiative of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, is a movement that aims to optimize the healthy development and wellbeing of all children. ACT will utilize disruptive changes and emergent trends to enable communities to create and spread innovative approaches that transform the capacity of healthcare, education, early childhood and youth services to help all children thrive.
Specific goals of the ACT initiative include:
- Joining communities together through an adaptive learning system that enables transformative improvements among child and family health-promoting programs, services and sectors.
- Supporting sustainable change where children and families live, grow, develop and learn.
- Creating a national movement to prioritize children’s health and wellbeing.
- Catalyzing policy changes that remove fiscal and administrative barriers limiting the ability of communities to develop and implement innovative strategies to address critical contemporary community child and family health issues.
The ACT Design Meeting had participants from a variety of child and family serving sectors, such as child health services; public health; social work; early care and education; philanthropy; community leaders; and municipal, state and federal government. The participants represented 16 communities (Long Beach, California; Pasadena, California; San Diego, California; Watsonville, California; Wilmington, California; Denver, Colorado; Hartford, Connecticut; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington Heights, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Eastern Tennessee; Washington D.C.; and London, England).
The purpose of the Design Meeting was to bring professionals who lead child- and family-focused health and wellbeing initiatives from different sectors and communities together to share successes, challenges and opportunities. We also worked together to develop strategies for the following areas of focus:
- Implementing adaptive leadership strategies across sectors.
- Integrating siloed data collection and management systems across sectors and communities to create a narrative of change.
- Supporting and building capacity for quality improvement in complex systems with diverse constituents.
- Activating families to co-design, lead and implement innovative community child and family health interventions that support children’s optimal healthy development.
Each community offers its own set of initiatives, successes, challenges and opportunities. Participating in ACT allows these communities to learn from each other. The opportunity to continue participating as a member of ACT allows the Office and ECI to share strategies, initiatives and system-building activities that support children’s optimal healthy development in Hartford and Greater Hartford with other communities, as well as consult with other communities as each organization develops and executes strategies to overcome identified challenges. The Office and ECI have a number of successful strategies to share with other communities, including:
- The Office offers a framework to implement medical center-supported community child and family health initiatives.
- The ECI initiative offers models for meaningful community engagement.
- Together, we offer a model partnership between a medical center and community foundation that has demonstrated success and impact.
The Office and ECI also hope to learn from other communities and bring Hartford:
- Strategies to integrate or better align isolated initiatives.
- Strategies to align place-based initiatives with system building activities.
- Strategies to engage families in such a way that they are driving the work rather than informing the work.
- Strategies linking practice to policy.
While each community has their successes to share, challenges to overcome and hopeful takeaways from the Design Meeting, a number of shared strategies to improve children’s health and development emerged:
- A focus on meaningfully partnering and collaborating with the community.
- A focus on community and parent empowerment and activation.
- The importance of shared measurements and metrics, and using data that is already being collected and analyzed as a starting point.
- An emphasis on cross-sector, multi-disciplinary leadership.
In committing to continued participation in the ACT initiative, the Office and ECI are committing to continuing their efforts to promote children’s optimal healthy development and helping all children thrive.
Jacquelyn Rose, MPH, is the program manager for Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program.