Summer 2014 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Health Integration in Early Care and Education Pays Off

Health Integration in Early Care and Education Pays Off

Low income children enrolled more than 30 years ago in a high quality early care and education program grew up to be healthier and better-achieving as adults. The Abecedarian Project reported long-term follow-up of children who were randomly selected to attend the Frank Porter Graham child care center from when they were infants to 5 years of age. The staff checked to be sure the children received recommended preventive health services. They provided good nutrition. They educated children, teachers and families about good health behaviors.

The study compared the status of the enrolled children with that of children who had access to typical community services. As adults in their mid-30s, the enrolled children were healthier. Fewer had high blood pressure and obesity. Also, they had a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Frances Campbell, the lead scientist for the project said: “Good health is the bedrock upon which other lifetime accomplishments rest, and without it, other gains are compromised. Investing in early childhood programs has been shown to pay off in ways we did not anticipate forty years ago when the Abecedarian study was founded.”

A new 2 minute video called “Medical Compliance Starts at Birth” summarizes the findings. Go to http://heckmanequation.org/content/resource/medical-compliance-starts-birth for the video. To read more about the research, go to http://heckmanequation.org/content/resource/research-summary-abecedarian-health

Integrating health into early care and education promotes health and safety. It prevents lifelong health problems and saves health care costs. Every child care program should identify someone on the staff as a health advocate. This person may have other roles. She/he doesn’t need to do all the tasks, but should make sure that health and safety is properly addressed in the program. The staff member with the role of “child care health advocate” can be the director, a lead teacher or someone else who agrees to make sure health and safety are addressed in all parts of the program.