Head Start takes on Asthma with Awareness Campaign
OHS partners with EPA, distributes toolkit to combat most-common childhood disease
Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease nationwide, impacting the lives and families of 6.3 million children nationwide.
With nearly a million children in its Head Start program, the Administration for Children and Families has a great opportunity to combat the disease through the power of information sharing.
Studies have documented that pre-school aged children have an exposure rate of 20 percent to secondhand smoke and are at a greater risk for developing asthma.
By providing early learning child care staff and families with information about comprehensive asthma environmental management practices and secondhand smoke prevention, children will be less at risk and live in healthier environments.
ACF started an Interagency Workgroup with representatives from the southeast offices of Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Head Start and Office of Child Care. Back in 2007, these agencies entered into a partnership to combine efforts to conduct outreach and deliver health risk reduction messages about secondhand smoke and other environmental asthma triggers.
Outreach strategies from this workgroup aim to increase awareness and educate staff and families about environmental health risk factors to young children and give access to resources that can fit easily into ongoing Head Start and Child Care program activities.
The workgroup also collaborated with Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (which administers Pre-Kindergarten and the state‘s early care education programs) and also with the Georgia Head Start State Collaboration Office (that builds collaborative partnerships between federally funded Head Start programs and state-funded early childhood programs) to support this initiative.
A pilot project was designed to narrow the information gap and broaden pre-school staff understanding of how better to incorporate environmental education into program activities using the Region IV Asthma Resource Toolkit developed by the workgroup.
Recognizing that children’s early experiences impact the quality of their long-term growth and health, the Toolkit is a comprehensive resource that shows how to maintain a healthy environment and provides educational materials that include asthma assessment checklists and recommendations for addressing areas of concerns.
The project was piloted in two counties in the state of Georgia (Bibb and Lowndes). These counties were selected based on the high rate of asthma cases among young children reported in 2000-2008 data obtained from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
In each county, a Head Start program and two child care learning centers were selected resulting in a total of 10 centers, 50 classrooms and 880 children participating in the project.