Promoting the physical and mental health of young children is another focus of much of our work here at the Partnership. Just like the cognitive skills that are built in a child’s early years, the social-emotional skills and physical health established in the first 5 years also have a dramatic long-term effect.
High-quality early childhood programs help to reverse the alarming rate of childhood obesity by improving access to healthy foods, increasing physical activity, and instilling good habits early in life. NC Pre-K and Durham Early Head Start (DEHS) both work with partner child care programs to ensure that meals provided to children are balanced and nutritious. Our DEHS child care centers feature professionally designed Outdoor Learning Environments to encourage physical activity and creative play. Home visiting programs such as DEHS and the Smart Start-funded Healthy Families Durham collaborate with local agencies and resources to provide nutritional information and healthy food to families.
Additionally, research shows that preventative care in the first five years, along with high-quality early childhood programs that incorporate health and nutrition, can prevent chronic diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes, reducing the need for more costly treatments much later in life. Partnership-funded home visiting programs ensure that children receive well-child visits and screenings to identify health concerns. Last year 81% of children served in Partnership programs were up-to-date on all immunizations, and 100% of children received developmental screenings and appropriate referrals to early intervention services.
The Partnership also funds programs to support the social, emotional, and mental health needs of Durham’s young children. Children with challenging behaviors are served through individualized consultations with parents and child care providers to help build self-regulation skills, and teachers receive training to improve their classroom management strategies to better support social-emotional development. The Partnership also recently convened a community-wide meeting about early childhood mental needs in Durham and has created a task force to focus solely on this issue.
There are so many young children in Durham who are in need of critical physical and mental health care before it’s too late. Can you give them the support they need? Make your gift to the Partnership today!