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To the '3 Rs,' add 'HS' – Healthy Start

August 15, 2011

PORTLAND, Maine - If it takes a village to raise a child, one organization is helping little villages as well as big cities provide young children with health readiness for school. Many children in Maine head back to the classroom in just a few weeks, and some experts say the adults in their lives need to do a better job of making sure they are ready.

Judith Meyers, president and CEO of the Child Health and Development Institute, says the focus is usually on academics.

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

She says the Child Health and Development Institute offers 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.

"What this is, is getting communities to look at how do they make sure they have all the services in place in their community - or access to those services - to make sure that all children are getting the child health services they need from birth."

She says the audience is parents, health care providers, and school and local government officials.

"Our work is less about the individual child and more 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 health care, child health care."

The organization focuses on serving children birth through age eight.

The Institute's website is www.chdi.org

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - ME