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A Call to End Summer Hunger

In Washington State, roughly 1 in 5 of all families with children struggle to put food on the table regularly. During the summer, the problem is exacerbated particularly for children who rely on meals from the free or reduced school lunch programs.

 In hopes of ending summer hunger and addressing summer learning loss, the Summer Meals Program provides healthy, FREE meals for kids and teens under age 18 during the summer months. There are no citizenship or income requirements, and registration is also not required. The sites are held in various locations such as schools, community centers, libraries, YMCAs, parks and apartment complexes. Some of these sites have enrichment activities for children to help prevent summer learning loss so children are prepared to jump back into school come fall. This low-barrier program is a great resource for all families looking for something to do during the summer.

In King County, WithinReach has partnered with United Way of King County to reach a goal of serving an additional 82,500 meals this summer. WithinReach assists in the promotion of Summer Meals and serves as the local point of contact for families looking to locate a site close to them. Since February, our Summer Meals VISTA and Community Partnership team has partnered with school districts, attended community events, provided presentations to network meetings, and distributed materials to community organizations to promote the Summer Meals Program. It is a highly-needed resource in the community, but is often underutilized due to lack of awareness.

To continue the momentum of promoting Summer Meals, WithinReach hosted two Summer Meals Phone-a-thons on June 23rd and July 8th with volunteers to connect families to their nearest Summer Meals site.

At each event, our dedicated volunteers spent two hours in the evening at WithinReach’s office to make calls to families that had previously been assisted by WithinReach staff. Our 14 volunteers collectively made 385 calls, sharing Summer Meals information and offering to connect clients to their closest sites. Of the families they spoke to, 98% had never accessed Summer Meals, and many families indicated their appreciation in receiving a phone call. In addition to connecting families to Summer Meals, volunteers also made referrals to other services such as Basic Food benefits, health insurance and affordable housing options.  While these events were largely successful in reaching new families that have never accessed Summer Meals, it also revealed that there is much more work that can be done.

Due to the great success of the events and work of volunteers, we have created a new volunteer opportunity for anyone that is interested in conducting Summer Meals calls on a more regular basis during WithinReach’s office hours. If you are interested, please contact Anna Balser at annab@withinreachwa.org for more information.

To find your nearest Summer Meals site please click here or text MEALS to 96859.

 

Tags: food   hunger   ParentHelp123   summer learning   summer meals   United Way   United Way of King County   Volunteer   Washington state   

Vaccine Education Across Language and Culture

By Judith Pierce, WithinReach Immunizations Graduate Intern.

From April 18-25, we’re celebrating National Infant Immunization Week. Did you know that routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths? It’s pretty awesome. That’s why we work to ensure that all children in Washington have access to immunizations, and their parents have the information they need to make a good decision. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to health information. Below, our graduate intern, Judith Pierce, describes her work with us to help address one of these gaps.

In summer of 2014 I had just completed my first year of public health school, and was in search of a year- long project for my capstone requirement. I knew I wanted to practice skills in evaluation and data analysis, but I also wanted a project with content that would be able to hold my interest for a year. When I initially approached WithinReach’s Immunization program, I was really interested in their work with provider training and the Immunity Community, and assumed I would work on those projects. Instead, they gave me the opportunity to develop a community forum for Russian speakers. Through speaking with the Immunization team I learned that Russian speakers have the lowest childhood immunization rates of any population in Washington, and have had the lowest rates since 2008. This was incredibly interesting and I grew curious to learn more.”

Over ten months I researched the literature and spoke with key informants to better understand the historical context and social connections in Russian speaking populations that contribute to low immunizations rates.  Much of the vaccine hesitancy we find in Russian speakers stems from confusion and frustration with the US immunization schedule, concerns of adverse reactions to the vaccines and an inability to find a Russian speaking provider to answer their questions. The Washington State Department of Health conducted a series of Russian speaking focus groups to identify major themes, and all four groups requested an event with a Russian speaking provider to address immunization concerns in a community forum. With help from Spokane-based health service providers, we were able to develop the community forum parents asked for. At the forum, parents expressed their frustration and fears about childhood immunizations to a Russian speaking pharmacist who was able to answer their questions and explain why the US immunization schedule is different from their home countries.  At the end of the meeting, the majority of surveyed participants said they enjoyed the forum and were able to have their questions answered by someone they trusted.  40% said the forum changed their minds about immunizations.

With the measles outbreak at Disneyland and whooping cough on the rise in Washington, media pundits and bloggers often lay the blame squarely on a mythical homogenous anti-vaccination group. The reality is people have a variety of concerns, and those of us doing immunization work should not assume why a particular group has fears about vaccines. This project allowed me to not only develop skills and learn new content, but also develop an appreciation for programs, such as Washington State Department of Health’s focus groups, that actively seek to understand health disparities and find culturally appropriate ways to address concerns within a community.

For additional information on how to develop a community forum addressing vaccine concerns for Russian speakers, contact Sara Jaye Sanford, WithinReach’s Immunization Action Coalition of Washington Program Coordinator at: (206) 830-5175 or sarajayes@withinreachwa.org.

 

Tags: childhood immunizations   Community Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   Measles   Public Health   Russian Speakers   Spokane   vaccines   Washington state   Whopping Cough   WithinReach   

Obstacles to Access: Tent City

By Amber Bellazaire, WithinReach Outreach & Enrollment Specialist, AmeriCorps
The AmeriCorps team at WithinReach recently began a new outreach effort at Tent City 3, a homeless encampment temporarily located across the street from Seattle Pacific University. On a chilly evening, a few members of the team arrived, prepared to help residents connect with food and health resources. While assisting these clients, our conversations turned to some of the other challenges they faced in accessing health care and nutrition benefits.

Several residents of Tent City 3 shared that they were in need of dental care, but were having difficulty finding a dentist that would take their Apple Health insurance. We were able to use the WithinReach Resource Finder to pull up a list of providers for these clients to use; however, lack of regular internet and phone access makes finding accessible dental and health care an ongoing struggle.

Similarly, a woman enrolled in Washington Apple Health and Basic Food told us that she was unable to access her benefits because she had recently been a victim of theft. This is an issue that disproportionately affects the homeless, who often don’t have a secure place to store their belongings. Her cell phone and wallet were stolen while she was sleeping, leaving her without personal identification cards, insurance cards, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, or a way to connect and replace these items. In this situation, simply contacting the various agencies in order to request replacement cards was a great challenge and a barrier limiting this woman’s access to health services and food.

Also that night, a 23-year-old woman we worked with was having difficulty accessing the prescription she needed to treat her bronchitis. People experiencing homelessness tend to be more susceptible to chronic illnesses, such as bronchitis, than those with stable housing. Without regular access to a mailbox, this young woman had not received her insurance card and had been denied prescriptions from her pharmacy, even though she has active coverage. We were able to offer suggestions about locations where she could receive mail in the future, and provided her with the phone numbers she needed to replace her insurance card.

Although the AmeriCorps team was able to offer short-term solutions to these clients so that they could access health and food resources, barriers to access, remain in place for the homeless population. These client interactions reminded me that simply signing a person up for benefits is often not enough; working around or removing barriers such as the lack of a mailbox or regular phone access is necessary for successfully connecting homeless clients. As we continue our outreach work with homeless communities, it is important to remember these common issues and try our best to work around them so that all of our clients can have access to health and food resources, no matter what their living situation is.

Need Shelter? Find Tent City sites here: http://www.sharewheel.org/Home/tent-cities

 

Tags: access   AmeriCrops   Basic Food   Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card   Health care   homeless communities   ParentHelp123   resource finder   Seattle   Shelter   Tent City 3   Washington Apple Health   WithinReach   

AmeriCorps Week: Language is a source of empowerment!

By Noelle Horario, WithinReach AmeriCorps Bilingual Outreach & Enrollment Specialist
Public Health – Seattle King County organized an assistance event in partnership with the Mexican, Peruvian, and Salvadorian consulates at the end the of January to offer a variety of services to families in the South Park community of Seattle. The services provided at the event included everything from concerns about health insurance and health screenings to taxes and other assistance programs folks could be eligible for. This event was catered to account for the various barriers that underserved communities experience when seeking assistance with government and state programs; barriers such as time, site location, transportation and language need, to name a few.
Location-wise, the event was held at a neighborhood information and resource center, a site familiar to many members of the surrounding community as being a welcoming environment. And as far as transportation accessibility, I found the site location to be extremely straightforward and easily reached, having taken the bus myself. The day of the event was scheduled for a weekend, allowing working families and individuals to attend outside of business hours. And finally, service organizations took advantage of their partnerships in order to provide bilingual health insurance in-person assisters (IPAs) for many languages of need, which is how I found myself at the event. Though the need for bilingual IPAs who spoke Tagalog was minimal, I was still able to assist a few individuals and families with their health insurance questions either in English or with the help of some of the volunteer interpreters.

There was one particular client story I walked away with from this experience that enhanced my perspective of language barriers. This client helped me see the other side of this complex barrier by showing me how much language is a source of empowerment.

Mariana** is a middle-aged Latin American woman who approached me toward the end of the event accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. She sat down and prefaced the conversation by saying that she wanted to try to communicate with me independently, but she also wanted the interpreter present in case there was any confusion. Mariana told me that she had recently become self-employed and was having difficulty navigating the exchange to choose a health plan for herself. The interaction was more drawn out than my usual interactions to confirm understanding on both ends; there were occasional tangents in Spanish until Mariana remembered that I didn’t understand. Since it was the end of the day, we weren’t able to complete the interaction with the purchase of her health plan so we exchanged information in order to complete it over the phone at another time.

In the following weeks we exchanged multiple phone calls so I could complete her application, explain the terminology surrounding insurance, guide her through the process of going to Staples so she could fax me her income verification, and finally purchase a plan.

In the months of my service I’ve had a wide range of final remarks from clients after finishing an interaction with them: “Finally,” or “glad that’s over,” as if the service was something I had withheld from them that I had finally granted. However, most of the final remarks are those of gratitude: “Thank you for making this easy for me,” and “thank you for being so kind.”

On my last phone call with Mariana she said, “Noelle, before you go I want to tell you something…” She thanked me first for assisting her with her application, but then went on to thank me for taking the time to understand her. She said that she had always been nervous about speaking English in public for fear of not being understood or taken seriously. She said she truly felt that our interactions had occurred in such a way where she understood what I was telling her and that I understood what she was trying to say.

Before my work with Mariana, I had seen my AmeriCorps service as a way to tear down the general systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing the resources they need. Now, I view my interactions with clients as opportunities to build bridges to resources despite these barriers. The value in our work comes from providing assistance that is personal and empathetic to the difficulties of navigating complicated systems.

**Client name has been changed to protect privacy.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps   AmeriCorps Week   Community Health   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   In-Person Assisters   Language Barriers   Volunteer   Washington HealthPlanFinder   Washington state   

Taking Action to Address Transit Inequality

By Jessica Vu, WithinReach Outreach & Enrollment Specialist, AmeriCorps
Of the many issues that Seattle-area residents face daily, transportation is one of the most pressing. From mass transit service cuts to inadequate traffic infrastructure, several factors have long affected King County residents’ ability to commute to and from work.
Of these factors, one of the most straining is consistently rising public transit fares. As a response to rising fares, King County officials have implemented a reduced-fare transit program called ORCA LIFT, which provides individuals and families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level with ORCA cards that charge just $1.50 per ride on King County Metro Transit buses, as well as on many other buses in the area. The $1.50 charge is $1.00 less than regular off-peak fares and $1.25 less than regular peak fares after the most recent fare increase; LIFT clients also have the option of purchasing a reduced-cost monthly pass.
The program, which went into effect on March 1, 2015, is one of the first of its kind in the country, and certainly the most ambitious in scope. ORCA LIFT could potentially reach close to 100,000 transit riders, many of whom rely on public transportation to commute to work from outlying areas as the cost of living in Seattle proper continues to rise. The program stands alongside the minimum wage increase approved by City Council last year as an example of efforts made by King County officials to fight growing economic disparities throughout the region.
To help manage the tremendous logistical undertaking involved in rolling out the ORCA LIFT program, King County Metro has called on over 40 community organizations, including WithinReach, to help administer cards and conduct outreach for the program. WithinReach’s in-person outreach team enrolls clients in ORCA LIFT at seven different sites throughout King County. Call our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588 for more site information. Through our robust and established outreach network, many clients in the past few weeks that came to us seeking food or health resources have also been able to walk away with an ORCA LIFT card in hand.
Because King County Metro—in partnership with King County Public Health—has created a program with relatively generous and client-friendly guidelines, people are often surprised at how painless the enrollment process is. After one of our in-person outreach team members verifies a person’s identity and income, the client is registered in the database and is given an active ORCA LIFT card on the spot, which is valid for two years after being issued without need for additional income verification. After experiencing how strictly overseen many public assistance programs are—and how meager the benefits can be—it has been very refreshing for WithinReach to take part in this progressive campaign to help alleviate inequality, and to be able to show people that efforts are being made to address their needs. We can only hope that these efforts will demonstrate to the rest of the country that reduced-fare transit programs not only work, but are well worth the undertaking.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps Outreach   Bus   Family Health Hotline   Inequality   King County Metro Transit   ORCA LIFT   poverty level   Public Transit   reduced transit fare   rising costs   Seattle   transit rider   Transportation   

All It Takes Is One Accident!

Written by: Annya Pintak, WithinReach Community Partnership Associate
Edited by: Kari Geiger, WithinReach AmeriCorps Program Lead
“I’m healthy, I don’t need health insurance…I never go to the Doctor!” My partner Charlie said this to me during last year’s Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act. I am passionate about ensuring folks are aware of the benefits of getting covered, and as a WithinReach employee and a navigator for the Health Benefit Exchange, hearing him say that made my ears ring. After constantly bugging him, my partner finally allowed me to help him enroll. He was approved for tax credits and was quick to purchase the Bronze plan which was cheaper every month, but had an incredibly high deductible. As a navigator, I did my duty of showing him all of his available options ranging from Silver to Gold plans and educated him on all of the health insurance terms. Charlie was still adamant that a Bronze Plan was best for him since he is young and doesn’t foresee himself using his health insurance—the “young invincible” rationale.
Six months after he purchased his health insurance I received a frantic phone call from Charlie letting me know that he was on his way to the emergency room with a broken arm. He was admitted to the ER, his arm was put in a splint, and he was referred to an orthopedic surgeon to further assess the damage. Three days later we found out he needed surgery to ensure that the bones in his fractured arm and wrist would heal correctly, as well as reduce his risk of early onset arthritis.
The biggest lesson we both received from his accident was that health insurance was worth it, even having a plan with a high deductible. The surgery without health insurance coverage would have cost almost $25,000—including anesthesia, the surgeon’s time, x-rays, physical therapy, and other treatment-associated costs. The maximum amount we paid out-of-pocket was $5,250, which was the amount for both the deductible AND the out-of-pocket maximum. $5,250 is still a large amount, but when you compare it with a $25,000 bill, it’s a big difference.
Charlie’s decision to purchase a Bronze Plan allowed him to access the best treatment option for his fractures, as well as provided both of us with the security that we would not go into financial debt while paying his medical bills. It is hard to understand the value of having health insurance until something catastrophic happens, but it is important to think of health insurance as is, a security blanket for your health AND finances. No one purchases car insurance with the intention of getting into a car accident, and the same can be said regarding health insurance. Life happens when you least expect it, and you never know when health insurance will be incredibly beneficial to you. Get yourself and your loved ones covered!

The current deadline for enrollment is February 15th 2015! Create an account or log in to your account on www.wahealthplanfinder.org today to update your application and explore your options. For tips and tricks, check out some articles we wrote over the past year:

Remember: The deadline to enroll is FEBRUARY 15th, 2015, so log on today or call us for help through our Family Health Hotline for assistance at: 1-800-322-2588!

 

Tags: Accident   Family Health Hotline   finances   health insurance   Health Plan   Healthcare   insurance coverage   Open Enrollment   out of pocket      Washington Health Benefit Exchange   Washington state   

Breastfeeding: The Power of Courage

By Alex Sosa
Breastfeeding Coalition of WA Program Coordinator
Breastfeeding Promotion Program
Mary Ann Cahill, one of the seven co-founders of La Leche League International (LLLI), recently passed away on October 26th at the age of 87. The news of her passing made me think about how this group of women had the courage to transform breastfeeding in the U.S. and around the world. This courage came at a time when breastfeeding rates had declined significantly in the 1950’s. Mary Ann Cahill and the other founders of LLLI believed that there was something transformational about breastfeeding and they set out to change the societal norms and individual perspectives regarding breastfeeding.
In 2007, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published a report, Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, confirming what LLLI leaders had already been aware of and working towards for the past 50 years—Breastfeeding contributes greatly to the emotional and physical well-being of both mother and baby across the entire life span.
All healthcare organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. The 2013 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card indicates that the “exclusive breastfeeding” rate at 3 months for Washington state is 47%; the same rate at 6 months is reported to be 19%. This is a 28% drop in just three months. The report suggests that significant work and much opportunity remains in Washington state to transform the breastfeeding landscape supporting our breastfeeding mothers. Change is about transformation and having the courage to work together like La Leche League’s founders did over 50 years ago.
While transformation is never easy, courage does matter! Whether you’re a mom, family member, health care provider, employer, coalition or community member, everyone has a role to play in supporting breastfeeding. Listen to yourself, look at the facts and begin to illuminate your own path. Celebrate your successes and continue the courage to grab the opportunities to transform breastfeeding in your community. Don’t be afraid of your own greatness—follow your dreams even when you don’t feel confident about the outcome.
I truly believe breastfeeding holds the key for healthy communities in Washington state – that is what powers my courage.
Here are some great resources to learn more about breastfeeding:
Book:
The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls —about seven women who challenged society, changed the culture, and taught the world that babies were born to be breastfed.

 

Tags: Breastfeeding   Breastfeeding support   courage   exclusive breastfeeding   La Leche League International   Mary Ann Cahill   

Policy Workshop: Breakfast After the Bell

By: Laird F. Harris, WithinReach Board President / Harris & Smith Public Affairs
Last week, WithinReach board members participated in a policy workshop to learn and discuss the important role that public policy plays in our theory of change. At the policy workshop, our board got a clear (if not scary) sense of the budget challenges that the Legislature will have to solve next year, as well as, ideas about how we can pursue our policy goals in a constrained fiscal environment. Essentially, the need to fully fund K-12 education as mandated in the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, will require increased spending of more than $3 billion. If Initiative 1351 reducing class sizes passes, as much as another $2 billion will be needed.

It is unclear how the Legislature will act to fund K-12, but it is very clear to WithinReach and its partners that hungry kids can’t learn well. WithinReach is working with partner organizations to develop and promote Breakfast After the Bell Legislation; that will require a nutritious breakfast to be offered as part of the school day in high needs schools, just like lunch. There is early bi-partisan support for this initiative that has proven to successfully increase participation in school breakfast. We will keep you posted about the measure’s progress.

In addition to our senior policy manager, Carrie Glover, and our lobbyist, Erin Dziedzic, the board heard very informative presentations from Katie Mosehauer with Washington Appleseed, and Julie Peterson with the Prevention Alliance. The board was very impressed by the willingness and ability of like-minded organizations to set priorities and agree to work together. The state faces a huge budget challenge with high risks to programs benefiting families and children. The breadth and strength of the coalitions and community partners we work with will assure that our voices are heard ….will assure that the voices of the families we serve are heard!

 

Tags: Breakfast After the Bell   Child Development   Education   food   Hungry Kids   k-12   Legislature   Nutrition   Prevention Alliance   State Budget   Washington Appleseed   Washington state   Washington State Policy   

Link Between Breastfeeding and Strong Child Development

Co-Written by WithinReach Staff:
Kirsten Leng and Alex Sosa (Breasting Promotion Program) – Kelly Smith and Keri Foster (Help Me Grow Program)
Health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend babies receive only breast milk for at least the first six months of life. Many of us know about the various health benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced risk of asthma, fewer ear infections, less incidence of diarrhea, and reduced risk of some cancers for moms. Did you also know that there is a well documented link between breastfeeding and strong child development? In fact, some research suggests that breastfeeding benefits are 90% developmental[1]!
• Skin-to-skin contact is important for children’s brain development[2].
• Breastfeeding improves children’s cognitive development[3].
• Maternal responsiveness and attachment security are increased by breastfeeding[4].
• Breastfed children are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect[5].
• Children who are breastfed are more accepting of new foods[6].
Why do we see these benefits? When a mother breastfeeds, it is not just about passing nutrition through the breast milk. Breastfeeding is also about comfort and nurturing; mother and baby studying and memorizing each other’s faces; speaking and singing to your baby; and building trust and non-verbal communication.
The first year of life is a time of early social, emotional, and verbal learning. Babies benefit from the intimate bonding and affection, nutrition, and early communication that happen between mom and baby. Breastfeeding provides a focused time to build this development.
At WithinReach, we focus on five topic areas of health including breastfeeding, child development, health care, food access, and immunizations. Just as breastfeeding success supports optimal child development, it also is the most nutritious, first (free) food, and a baby’s first immunization. Likewise, access to healthy foods and health insurance supports a child to have his/her best start. At WithinReach, we believe when families are supported in all of these five areas, they have the resources they need to be healthy.
To learn more, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit www.ParentHelp123.org

 

Tags: Bonding   brain development   Breast milk   Breastfeeding   Child Development   Family Health Hotline   Healthy   Nutrition   ParentHelp123   

How I Became a Crunchy Pro-Vaxing Mom

The following is an excerpt from a blog post written by one of our returning Parent Advocates, Kathy Hennessy.WithinReach is thrilled to work in Bellingham for a second year of the Immunity Community this coming 2014-15 school year.
I’ve long considered myself to be a semi-crunchy person. I grew up in a beach community and have always had an appreciation for taking care of the environment. When my first daughter was born I did not think twice about the eye goop or the vaccine they gave her in the hospital or the vaccines she got every few months thereafter. She was a colicky baby and the parenting books that helped me the most were by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. William Sears. I had found attachment parenting and it not only worked well with our daughter’s temperament but it fit with what I wanted for my life with my baby. My husband wholeheartedly agreed.
Being a practitioner of attachment parenting, I was drawn to others who also wear their babies and co-sleep and that led me to meeting mothers who do not vaccinate their children. I live in Whatcom County in Washington State where nearly 8% of kindergartners and 6th graders in public schools have vaccine exemptions, which is about double the state exemption rate[1].
How can a person who thinks of herself as crunchy still vaccinate her children? I am asked this all the time. Science. Science is the answer. And it is not a belief system or the truth. It is evidence in support or not supporting an idea. Simply put, there is no evidence to support not vaccinating. None. Everything I read – and I do read a lot of pro- and anti-vaccine information, both as former administrator of the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children[2] and in my current position as Immunity Community Parent Advocate – has supported the choice to vaccinate.

We know that there are risks with every parenting decision we make, but we have to make them rationally and based on sound science. Since every country and every major medical and scientific body on earth supports vaccines and there is lots of evidence that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risk, immunizing myself and our children and advocating that the husband also gets up-to-date on his vaccines is one of the wisest health choices we have made.

So, how can I be crunchy and pro-vax? Simple. Because we do what we know is best for our health, based on sound science. Living healthy, i.e. being crunchy, makes sense to us. So does vaccination.

While I was running the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children, I became aware of the Immunity Community[3]. In the Immunity Community, parents learn to use their social networks, both online and off, to advocate in a positive and non-adversarial way for immunization. We are taught to spread the word about the benefits and how to talk to parents who are concerned about the risks. I was thrilled to find this group and advocated strongly for them to come to Bellingham. Now I am part of the Immunity Community and I could not be happier. We got our program written up in the Bellingham Herald[4], on the front page, which was thrilling. Other parents are making a huge different at their children’s preschools, by sharing information in a positive manner. We are making a difference. And it is very exciting to be spreading the word that you can live in healthy, crunchy Bellingham, WA and also be fully immunized.

_____________________________________________________________________________

** As summer winds down, kids and their families across Washington State are gearing up for the start of a new school year. With a new year upon us, it is a good time to make sure you and your family are up-to-date on all the required vaccines for school entry. Vaccines are free in Washington State for all children under 19. For help finding a vaccination clinic visit: http://parenthelp123.org/resources/resource-finder or call 1-800-322-2588.

Curious how protected your children’s school is from vaccine-preventable diseases? Check-out http://www.schooldigger.com/WAImmunization/ to see your school’s vaccination and exemption rates.

 

Tags: Children   Immunity Community   immunizations   Parent Advocate   parents   vaccines   Volunteer   Whatcom County   

How Help Me Grow Supports Washington State’s Early Learning Initiatives

Co-written with Keri Foster, Help Me Grow Family Engagement Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA
Washington State is committed to supporting early learning for all children. We know that kindergarten readiness is an issue in our state. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), only 44% of students showed up to their first day of kindergarten ready to learn (OSPI, 2005). The Washington State Early Learning Plan identifies specific strategies that support early learning professionals to increase their quality of care and interactions with children to improve outcomes for children in school and throughout their lifespan. At WithinReach, our Help Me Grow program is supporting the state’s efforts by joining with community partners who are making early learning a focus. Screening for healthy child development is happening more and more during wellness visits at the doctors, in child care settings, and preschools. We are stepping up to help our partners increase their screening efforts and quality by helping families access community-based resources.
For example, we are partnering with the Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to support primary care physicians to conduct regular screening and ensure families get connected to resources that support their children. We are also partnering with local preschools and child care sites to explore ways to support staff and parents to make screening a regular onsite activity. In preschool and child care settings we are also helping to facilitate the follow-up conversations where parents receive feedback on their child’s development. When we partner with professionals who are serving children, we can have a greater impact. Good health, strong families, and supportive learning experiences are all needed to enable children to succeed in school and life.

Kelly Smith

Bio: Kelly Smith is the new Help Me Grow Program Manager. She brings her passion for building strong families and supporting healthy kids. Before coming to WithinReach, she spent eight years working to address homelessness in Washington State by working to ensure homeless families have the resources they need to thrive. Prior to that, she worked at the YMCA at a drop-in center for teens.

For more information about the Help Me Grow program, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org

 

Tags: Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   kindergarten ready   OSPI   School readiness   Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics   Washington state   

World Breastfeeding Week 2014

By Alessandra DeMarchis, WithinReach Breastfeeding Promotion Intern

Last fall, I started the Master in Public Health program at the University of Washington with a focus on nutritional science. I have been interested in nutrition and food since before I can remember, but this fall I learned about the world’s most perfect food: breast milk. Breast milk is amazing! As a young woman, it is incredible to know that my body has the capacity to create the most nutritious food for a baby. Not only can my body produce enough of this food to sustain even twins, it also changes in composition, synchronized to the changing needs of the baby. Breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine and only food source for six months. Did I mention it is free? Breast milk is so powerful that it can actually reduce my future baby’s risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, while at the same time reducing my risk of certain cancers.

So why did the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card from 2013 show that only 76.5% of babies in the United States have ever breastfed, and a mere 49.0% of babies are breastfeeding at 6 months? Washington State is not doing much better, with only 87.9% of babies ever being breastfed and 60.2% being breastfed at 6 months. If breast milk is free and the most perfect food source for a baby, than why are so many babies receiving artificial formulas? Until the 19th century, women throughout history exclusively breastfed their babies. Why did formula become the new normal and breastfeeding an activity done in secluded places? The truth is that breastfeeding can be especially difficult when mothers do not have emotional, informational, and logistical support of their family, friends, co-workers, employers, medical providers, community, aiStock_000019515771Largend government.

World Breastfeeding Week, held every year from August 1 – 7, creates the opportunity for groups and organizations around the world to take action for raising awareness and support for breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week 2014 highlights the role of breastfeeding in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The eight MDGs were set in 1990 to promote sustainable development and health and eradicate poverty and hunger. Breastfeeding is linked to each of the MDGs. In terms of the first goal, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, breast milk is a cost effective way of feeding babies, packed with high quality nutrients and energy. For the goal to ensure environmental sustainability, breastfeeding creates less waste from pharmaceuticals, plastic, aluminum, as well as firewood and fossil fuels. To achieve the post-2015 development agenda, organizations around the world must acknowledge and emphasize the value of increasing and maintaining the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding.

World Breastfeeding Week is a time for organizations to take action toward a world where breastfeeding is once again the societal norm. Every child should have a fair start at life, and that means ensuring all mothers have the support they need to provide their babies with breast milk.

Click here to see how Within Reach is promoting World Breastfeeding week. To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week and this year’s theme, visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.
 

Tags: Breastfeeding   Breastfeeding Promotion   Breastfeeding support   Child Development   food   Nurition   World Breastfeeding Week   

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