New survey will assess needs & strengths of local families

Do children in our region get recommended medical checkups? Can families get the child care they need?  How many children are ready to succeed in school? Until now, we didn’t have a good source for this information. Starting this month, King County will begin to fill the information gap with a first-ever community-wide survey to help us understand the strengths and needs of local families. The Best Starts for Kids (BSK) health survey is sponsored by the voter-approved BSK Initiative (www.kingcounty.gov/beststarts), and was developed in consultation with local experts and trusted community-based organizations.  About 12,000 randomly selected King County parents or caregivers with children in 5th grade or younger will be asked to participate.  Results will be shared with the public in 2017.

New survey to assess needs and strengths of families.

New survey to assess needs and strengths of families.

How will the survey answers be used?

  • Survey results will inform the activities under the voter-approved Best Starts for Kids initiative.  For our region to continue to prosper, everyone should get a fair opportunity to succeed, regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, or where they live in the County. The survey will help focus attention on the needs of local families. BSK will fund programs related to:
    • Investing early to optimize children’s health and well-being before age 5.  Possible examples: providing parenting support; expanding preventive screening.
    • Continuing the investment to sustain the gain from ages 5 through 24.  Possible examples: mentoring; stopping the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
    • Preventing youth and family homelessness and promoting safe and healthy communities.
    • Investing in communities that have been left behind with the changing economics of our region.
  • Survey results will provide vital baseline information about King County children.  Follow-up surveys in 2018 and 2020 will track the effectiveness of BSK activities.

What are the benefits of participating?

  • Broad participation will ensure that the diversity of King County’s population is represented.
  • Participation will shape the futures of King County children, families, and communities.
  • Survey participants can compare their experiences with the rest of King County families.
  • Participants will be entered in a lottery; 1 in every 100 entries will win $150.

How will people participate?

  • Starting this September, randomly selected parents/guardians will be contacted about the survey.  They can complete it online, on paper, or over the phone.
  • The survey will be available in 6 languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, and Somali.
  • Participants will answer questions about their child’s health, activities, and experiences; their family’s strengths and supports; and aspects of community and neighborhood life.

If you’re selected, make sure your voice is heard – please participate in the survey.

Find out more at  www.kingcounty.gov/bskhealthsurvey.      

Pediatricians urged to tackle poverty head-on

For the first time ever, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a policy statement on poverty.  As affirmed by AAP President Benard P. Dreyer, “research shows that living in deep and persistent poverty can have detrimental health consequences that are severe and lifelong.”  Acknowledging that “almost half of young children in the United States live in poverty or near poverty,” the AAP has emerged as a strong advocate for programs and policies that improve health and quality of life for children and families living in poverty.

Pediatricians are being asked to do more than increase their awareness of poverty.  In the context of a family-centered medical home that coordinates strategies to address social determinants of health (poverty, for example), physicians are urged to:

  • Assess family financial stability (perhaps by asking if the family has trouble making ends meet at the end of the month).
  • Screen for risks for adversity (food insecurity, maternal depression, family instability, unemployment, frequent moves).
  • Identify family strengths that protect against adversity (secure attachment to caretakers; strong family and social connections; responsive, nurturing, and consistent parenting).
  • Coordinate care with community partners (such as those providing legal aid and job training, and addressing issues like food, energy, and housing insecurity).
  • Participate in programs that integrate behavioral health into primary care (Incredible Years and Triple P) and promote literacy (Reach Out and Read and the Video Interaction Project [VIP]).
  • Link families to community resources that support and assist families in need.
  • Advocate for programs/policies that buffer children against adverse effects of poverty. Examples include:
    • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • Raising the minimum wage
    • Supports for quality child care and early childhood education
    • Access to comprehensive health care
    • Nutrition support such as WIC (the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), SNAP (formerly “food stamps”), and the National School Lunch Program
    • Home visiting programs such as the Nurse-Family Partnership

Does this go “above and beyond” what should be expected of a pediatrician?  The AAP affirms that it’s all in the line of duty:  prevention of childhood diseases – an accepted pediatric mandate – depends in part on “early detection and management of poverty-related disorders.”

Of course pediatricians cannot tackle poverty on their own. In King County, they can expect support from a wide assortment of community-based organizations and effective programs already in place. They should also be able to tap into the expertise and community networks that continue to evolve around regional efforts such as Communities of Opportunity and Best Starts for Kids, which are already aligned with the goals of the AAP’s war against child poverty.

For data on poverty-related indicators, see Communities Count updates on food, housing, income, qualification for free/reduced-price school meals, and the relationship between adult health outcomes and adverse childhood experiences.  Communities Count has recently added several years of data on student homelessness, making it easier to look at trends (by school district) from 2007-08 through 2014-15 school years.  For data on child, maternal, and adult health, see King County’s Community Health Indicators.

Best Starts for Kids: Focus on prevention

In his annual State of the County address, King County Executive Dow Constantine introduced Best Starts for Kids, a 6-year, levy-funded project that, if approved by voters, will implement proven and promising strategies to help children reach their full potential. The long-term goal is to invert the County’s current pattern of spending more on negative outcomes (such as incarceration) than on effective strategies, early in development, to prevent those outcomes. Best Start for Kids is designed to jumpstart this inversion.

Some excerpts from this morning’s presentation:

“From 1950 to the late ‘70s, … 90 percent of American households enjoyed 70 percent of all income growth…. Yes, the rich did get richer, but as the economy grew, so did the middle class. Back then, a rising tide really did lift all boats. But … between 2009 and 2012 here in Washington state, 175 percent of all income growth has gone to just the top 1 percent…. This mocks the fundamental principle on which we were all raised: That if we work hard, we can all succeed.

“From Boeing to Costco to Microsoft to Starbucks to Amazon, King County has prospered because our people have excelled at solving problems. But income inequality puts our future prosperity at risk by denying more of our children an equal opportunity to contribute to a well-educated middle class…. The sad truth in America today is that a top predictor of a child’s success in life is the income of the household in which that child is raised. Our goal must be to break this connection between income and outcomes.”

“One of the worst outcomes for children who are victims of abuse, neglect, homelessness, or mental illness is to land in the juvenile justice system. Every child who drops out, who gets kicked out, who is locked up, marks our failure as a community to provide the love and care and support that every child needs. These kids aren’t failing us—we are failing them.

“We can and must do better, as a county that prides itself on taking its name from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A full century before Dr. King, Frederick Douglass observed: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ Strong children require strong communities, and it will take all of us working together across sectors to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfill her potential, and to participate fully in her community.”

For full text, go to 2015 State of the County address. For background information and an infographic, go to the Best Starts for Kids webpage.