The Health Manager and School Readiness-- Stories from the Field
As the health manager, you are part of the beginning, middle, and end of school-readiness activities in your program. At the beginning of a child's time in Head Start, you determine each child's health status to identify and address any health or developmental concerns early. Throughout a child's participation in the program, you offer services to ensure that the child stays healthy and safe, and therefore engaged in learning. Finally, to send the child into a lifetime of optimal health and development, you provide family and child health education that focuses on things families and children can do in their everyday lives. Your work makes sure children are healthy and safe so that they can learn.
As program teams meet to discuss school-readiness goals, you offer connections to child health. You may discuss the connection between child wellness and each of the goals, sharing that healthy children are ready to learn. You also advocate for the inclusion of families of children with special health care needs in the goal-setting process. These families best represent the particular needs of their children and can ensure that school readiness goals match their own aspirations for their children.
When your program team begins to develop the school readiness action plan, you share specific strategies that you offer through health services. For example, you may include physical activity and nutrition strategies for goals addressing physical development and health, providing staff with training about improving children's opportunities for physical activity in the classroom or enhancing nutrition programs to prevent food insecurity. You work with the team to integrate these strategies into planning and training staff in ways to implement them. You also include family and staff in selecting and planning these activities to ensure that the activities best meet their needs.
You support staff in collecting child-assessment data by sharing relevant health information with them. Knowing that there are times when health affects assessment, you provide a health context for both collecting and analyzing child-assessment data. You may suggest that teachers focus assessment on specific children toward the end of the week after these children have gotten sufficient sleep and nutrition through the consistent schedule your program provides. You may also sit with teachers to review assessment data, connecting a prolonged absence due to illness to a lack of progress in specific developmental domains. Finally, you may review data from hearing or vision screenings with teachers to determine how an identified impairment affects child development in each domain.
Finally, you join your program's team to look at both child assessment and health data over time to consider how health services may improve child progress. After disaggregating the data, you may note that specific patterns in child progress relate to improved treatment rates for children with identified health concerns. You may also note trends that indicate areas where improvements need to be made. Perhaps children struggling with social and emotional development need additional mental health support from your program's mental health consultant. Working with the team, you celebrate your successes and make plan improvements to address continued areas of concern.
As the individual on your program team who best understands children's health and safety needs, you are able to offer guidance and support to improve child outcomes. You help children stay healthy and safe so that they can engage in the rich school readiness opportunities your program offers.
Last Reviewed: June 2014
Last Updated: August 28, 2014
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