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Ed. note: This was originally published on The Family Room Blog.
Last year, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), an initiative that brings together the public and private sectors, communities, businesses, schools, and individuals to close opportunity gaps and ensure all of our nation’s youth, including boys and young men of color, have the tools they need to realize their incredible potential. The initiative sets a vision for supporting our youth from cradle to college and career by focusing on six important milestones across the life course. The first of these milestones is ensuring that children enter school ready to learn.
The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report recommends building a strong foundation of social-emotional and behavioral health, fostered by warm, enriching, and secure relationships with adults like parents and early learning providers, as an integral component of entering school ready to learn. Social-emotional and behavioral health is robustly associated with school readiness and achievement and outcomes in adulthood, such as higher likelihood of high school completion, degree attainment, and lower likelihood of drug use and arrest.
At the same time, teachers and child care providers report that their most pressing training need is in fostering children’s behavioral development. In fact, only 20% of providers who serve children under age 5 reported receiving any training on facilitating children’s social-emotional growth in the past year. Lack of training and competencies in this area may contribute to higher rates of expulsion and suspensions. Data consistently show that young boys of color are disproportionately the subjects of expulsions and suspensions from early learning and school settings, which may contribute to social-emotional challenges and set them on a negative trajectory before they even step foot in the kindergarten classroom. Last year, the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (ED) released a joint policy statement on preventing expulsion and suspension in practices in early learning settings.
The concern for the mental health and behavioral wellness in young children of color has become even more alarming after the release of a recent study in The Journal for American Medical Association analyzing suicide rates in children over the past 20 years. Researchers found that, while the overall suicide rate remained stable, the rate for black children, ages 5 to 11, increased significantly. Data over the past several years indicate that the suicide rate in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth is more than double other groups.
As a response to the pressing need for more preventive support for the early education system and the children and families it serves, this week the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in partnership with the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Administration for Children and Families, three agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched the new National Center of Excellence in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). The Center of Excellence (CoE), funded at about $6 million over the next four years, is tasked with building strong, sustainable mental health consultation systems in States and tribal communities across the country through the development of state of the art tools and the delivery of training and technical assistance. IECMHC is a multi-level preventive intervention that teams mental health professionals with people who work with young children and their families. The model builds the capacity of teachers and families to promote social-emotional and behavioral development and has demonstrated impacts for improving children’s social skills and adult-child relationships; reducing challenging behaviors, expulsions and suspensions; increasing family-school collaboration; increasing classroom quality; and reducing teacher stress, burnout, and turnover.
Importantly, the work of the CoE will also have a focus on tribal communities. Work will be steered by an advisory group of experts in the early childhood mental health field and will include up to four tribal experts to ensure that the work is culturally responsive to the needs of AI/AN children and their families. The unique strengths and needs of tribal communities warrant an intentional focus and strong partnership with tribal nations. As the work of the CoE moves forward, it will include a thorough consideration of racial and ethnic disparities in exclusionary discipline and other areas, and result in a set of tools and training that are culturally responsive and relevant, address issues of implicit bias, and benefit all children, their families, and their teachers.
Today’s announcement is an important step forward in boosting the quality of early education around the country, and ensuring that States and tribes can support their youngest children, including boys of color, in achieving optimal social-emotional and behavioral health and school readiness. We hope that the launch of this new CoE will spur discussion and encourage States, tribes, communities, schools, and early childhood programs to prioritize this issue. We all share responsibility for taking care of our youngest children.
Shantel E. Meek, Ph.D., is the Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families.
Mark your calendars. Open Enrollment for 2016 health coverage begins November 1.
Today, Secretary Burwell visited the Howard University College of Medicine to reflect on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act and to preview the work ahead of us during the third Open Enrollment period.
Secretary Burwell also broke some news during her speech on the impact the Affordable Care Act has had for millions of Americans.
News ? about 17.6M Americans have gained coverage as #ACA provisions have taken effect. #ACAToday #ACAisWorking pic.twitter.com/wB9HAcfUyP— Sylvia Burwell (@SecBurwell) September 22, 2015
News ? about 17.6M Americans have gained coverage as #ACA provisions have taken effect. #ACAToday #ACAisWorking pic.twitter.com/wB9HAcfUyP
Check out some of the issues the Secretary touched on during her speech this morning.
“Five years in, millions of people have new coverage and the annual uninsured rate has been reduced to its lowest levels on record… The Marketplace offered a product that millions of consumers wanted… The private sector has actually added 13.1 million jobs over 66 straight months of job growth. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest level since April of 2008. And we have not seen the creation of a “part-time economy.”
“When we look at the evidence, the Affordable Care Act is delivering on access, affordability and quality.”
“According to a study we are releasing today, as the ACA’s coverage provisions took effect, an estimated 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage. And this progress has been even bigger for people of color: The uninsured rate among African-American adults has declined by more than 10 percentage points, compared to about 7.7 for the total population.”
“The ACA is about more than the Marketplace. People are beginning to understand that the ACA is improving their care no matter where they buy their insurance. With new protections and required benefits, like preventive services at no extra cost, it’s improved the quality of coverage for all Americans.”
“The questions that surrounded this law a year ago have been answered, and now we have a new opportunity in front of us: building on this progress.”
“We have three main goals this year: improve the consumer experience, retain our current customers, and increase new enrollment. Current Marketplace customers express satisfaction with their coverage and we expect most to come back. And we believe we can continue to connect people with the coverage they need and bring the number of uninsured down.”
“All of us in this room have an important power, and with it an opportunity to empower others. And we know that there can be no power without health. It is the foundation of our lives. It affects our educations, our safety, and our economic opportunities. Until we know all Americans have a chance to find affordable coverage, quality care, and the tools to make the best decisions for their health, we will struggle as a nation to move forward.”
You can read Secretary Burwell’s full remarks here. Remember to follow the Secretary on Twitter @SecBurwell. You can join the conversation around today’s speech using #ACAToday.
Remember, Open Enrollment for 2016 coverage starts November 1, 2015. Sign up for HealthCare.gov text and email reminders to stay informed.
Nicholas Garlow works in Public Affairs at HHS.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) describes a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People with SCD have abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S or sickle hemoglobin, in their red blood cells. Sickle cell disease is a painful and potentially fatal disease that affects approximately 100,000 Americans, mostly African-Americans, every year. We’ve struggled for years to find a cure and treatments, and the latest news is encouraging. Bone marrow stem cell transplantation represents the strongest potential cure for sickle cell disease, but scientists are still working to refine this therapy so that it can ultimately be widely available. For now, it is still important for patients and their families to obtain as much medical knowledge as possible about this potentially debilitating genetic condition so they can live the healthiest, pain-free lives possible. Speak with your health care provider to come up with a plan for preventing or reducing the complications of sickle cell disease, such as severe pain, infections, and stroke.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, offers the following questions as examples of topics that patients might discuss in detail with their doctors:
If you do not have sickle cell disease, but would like to support the community, here are some examples of steps you can take:
Thanks to advances in science, people with sickle cell disease are living longer, more productive lives than in the past. NHLBI is committed to sickle cell disease research and director Dr. Gary H. Gibbons believes that with the scientific possibilities before us, we have the potential to realize a generation of children with sickle cell disease who can live without fear of suffering a stroke – a stroke-free generation. I’m excited to be a part of a team that’s working to turn that vision into reality. To learn more about sickle cell disease, visit NHLBI’s website: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca.
Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy launched Step it Up!, a Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, urging community planners, local leaders and ordinary Americans to help create more safe areas for walking and wheelchair rolling.
Only half of U.S. adults get the recommended amount of physical activity to help reduce the risk of preventable, chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. For many racial and ethnic minority populations, the rates are even lower, coupled with higher obesity rates. Blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity, followed by Hispanics.
But while walking is an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle, many communities lack access to safe space to walk. The U.S. Department of Transportation found in 2013 that about 30 percent of people live in communities without sidewalks. And in many communities, violence – and the perception of violence – may also serve as a barrier to walking.
The Surgeon General’s call to action lays out ideas for how employers, schools, city planners, public agencies, health and nonprofit organizations, individuals and families can promote walking and make their communities more walkable. For more information about the call to action and how to get involved, visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/stepitup.
Surgeon General’s Walking Playlist
Your heart may be older than you are – and that’s not good. If this is the case, you have a higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. But you can take action to put your heart on a healthy beat.
According to a new CDC Vital Signs report, 3 out of 4 U.S. adults have a predicted heart age that is older than their actual age. The heart age concept was created to more effectively communicate a person’s risk of dying from heart attack or stroke and to show what can be done to lower that risk. The risks include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes status, and body mass index as an indicator for obesity. You can check out your heart age at www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heartage.htm.
Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases is the nation’s number one cause of death among both men and women. You may be able to prevent it by focusing on a risk factor that you're ready to change. Not smoking, controlling blood pressure and controlling cholesterol can drastically reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You can increase your heart age by:
CDC scientists used risk factor data collected from every state in the U.S. and information from the Framingham Heart Study to determine that nearly 69 million adults between the ages of 30 and 74 have a heart age older than their actual age. That’s about the number of people living in the 130 largest U.S. cities combined.
The CDC Vital Signs report shows that heart age varies by race/ethnicity, gender, region and other sociodemographic characteristics. Excess heart age is highest in African-Americans and increases with age in all populations.
By taking steps now, Americans can be young – not old – at heart.
Check out this and other CDC Vital Signs issues.