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To 3 Rs, add HS – Healthy Start

August 29, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If it takes a village to raise a child, one organization is offering advice to the little villages as well as the big cities when it comes to health readiness for school. Most children in Tennessee head back to classrooms this month, and some experts say the adults in their lives need to do a better job of making sure they are ready.

Judith Meyers is president and CEO of the Child Health and Development Institute, which works with communities on making sure kids are ready for school. She says the focus is usually on academics.

"So often, when people talk about school readiness, they're talking about cognitive skills - literacy, reading and writing. Our concern is that we don't pay enough attention to the fact that children need to be healthy to be able to learn."

Her organization has a toolkit to help communities find and take advantage of resources to ensure a healthy start for all children.

Meyers says the issues can be physical, including vision and hearing, and also social or emotional.

"We're getting communities to look at how they make sure they have all the services in place - or access to those services - to make sure all children are getting the child health services they need from birth."

She says the audience is parents, health providers, and school and municipal officials.

"Our work is less about the individual child and more about looking at the systems in place. For instance, making sure that all children have access to what we call a 'medical home,' where they get consistent, community-based child health care."

The Child Health and Development Institute focuses on serving children from birth through age 8.

Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN