PUBLISHED: May 20, 2009
Timely New Report Cites Crucial Linkage Between Early Childhood Healthcare
Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut | Link to article
The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI), a leader in the child healthcare field, recently published a comprehensive report entitled A Framework for Child Health Services, Supporting the Healthy Development and School Readiness of Connecticut's Children. The report's publication comes at a time when debate on healthcare and education issues at the national and state levels is intensifying with a heightened focus on both efficacy and costs. The report was hailed by Senator Jonathan Harris as a "call to action to ensure that Connecticut's children are healthy and ready to learn".
Connecticut, through the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Cabinet, has already devoted considerable resources to setting and achieving school readiness goals. A national research study tells us that 56% of all children in a sample of 40,000 children were deemed not ready for kindergarten. Among these children, physical and mental health-related conditions, alone or in combination with cognitive concerns, accounted for 94% of the problems they faced. A mere 6.5% of children lagged only in cognitive development. This suggests that up to 20,000 of Connecticut's children may be entering kindergarten with physical and/or mental health issues that could seriously impede academic success.
Comprehensive Strategy Framework
A Framework for Child Health Services looks at health services within the broader system of other sectors that serve children and families. It proposes an integration of child services with early care and education programs as well as family support services. Using a "building block" approach, the report also emphasizes the importance of linkages across three levels of health services for children:
- Universal Services: available to all families to support optimal health development and early identification of any health or development concerns;
- Selected Services: available to all children but only needed by some, including developmental, medical and mental health services for problems that are identified;
- Indicated Services: for children with identified difficulties or special healthcare needs that meet program eligibility criteria.
While Connecticut's children already benefit from a robust set of resources, capacity is limited in many of the programs that serve young children especially indicated services.
The report notes that modest investments in the child health system can have a major positive impact on school readiness for Connecticut's children. Six key recommendations are:
- Increase access to child health services particularly primary, preventive and dental care that not only improve a child's overall health but also reduce the need for emergency room healthcare treatment and its high costs.
- Provide care coordination services to improve treatment of acute and chronic problems and adherence to treatment plans as well as achieve efficiencies and cost savings.
- Implement developmental monitoring and screening for early identification of concerns and access to resources that can treat the condition.
- Expand office-based education activities to help child health providers take advantage of best practices that support healthy child development.
- Improve mid-level assessment capabilities that evaluate at-risk children and connect them to the appropriate evaluation services immediately to ensure the most effective use of expensive, scarce resources.
- Align and support state and community early childhood initiatives that integrate health into school readiness programs.
The estimated cost of implementing the recommendations is $14.2 million over a period of several years and represents a 1.5% increase in the current annual $800 million HUSKY program budget. If assumptions concerning a 50% federal reimbursement are correct, the cost to Connecticut would be approximately $7 million - a figure likely to be offset by efficiencies and savings generated by improvements in the overall system.
As noted by Dr. Paul Dworkin, co-author of the report and Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, "The Framework can provide a common vision for communities across the state and for the state itself, that can help shape and inform policy and practice that will lead to better health outcomes and thus better school success for Connecticut's children."
Details are available in the attached full copy of the report. Additional copies may be ordered by contacting Cindy Langer at email@example.com or 860-679-1538.
The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI) is the operating arm of the Children's Fund of Connecticut (CFC) a public, charitable foundation focused on developing comprehensive, effective, community-based health and mental health care systems for children and their families. Based in Farmington, CHDI works to advance policy, systems, program and practice changes that will result in better health and developmental outcomes for the children of Connecticut.
Please visit our website: www.chdi.org