The Health Staff Member - Stories from the Field
As a health staff member in your program, each activity you do contributes to a child's school readiness (needs a working link). Whether it's working directly with children and families to promote healthy behaviors or using child health information to develop individualization plans, you are critical to your program's school readiness work. Think about these moments to see how you may fit the four steps to school readiness into your program.
Tanya and Maria are health staff for Alphabet Town Early Head Start. Over the last few weeks, they have been meeting with their manager, Sylvia, to discuss the school readiness goals that Sylvia has been developing with the school readiness program team (focusing on goal development). When Tanya, Maria, and Sylvia meet, they read through the goals and ask:
- How is health related to this goal?
- What does the health research say is needed for children to achieve this goal?
- Does this goal focus on the issues and concerns we have identified as targets?
They use the answers to the questions to think about the health services plan and how their work connects to the program's school readiness plan.
Create and Implement an Action Plan
Sylvia works with Tanya and Maria to discuss how health should be included in the school readiness action plan. The group reviews the goals and asks:
- What kinds of health services will best support these goals?
- How could we improve what we are currently doing to help meet these goals?
- What kind of health outcomes might result?
Together they brainstorm a list of strategies for all of the health services they provide and align them with each goal. Tanya suggests training all caregivers to conduct hearing and vision screenings to ensure that every child is screened within 45 days. Maria suggests working directly with all caregivers to ensure that they are using proper hygiene strategies to prevent the spread of illness. They define how their health services plan connects to the school readiness action plan. Together, they all implement the strategies, collecting data about what they are working on as they do it.
Assess Children's Progress
Tanya and Maria are always working with caregivers to collect health information about children in the program. They aggregate and analyze all data to sit down with caregivers and talk about child progress. In meetings with caregivers, they ask:
- When did you typically gather the information for each child's assessment?
- What does the health data tell us about how the child was feeling and acting that day?
- Comparing the health data to child assessment data, how has the child's health impacted their progress on the goals?
The answers to these questions help Tanya, Maria, and the caregivers they are working with begin to understand children's progress and the health strategies they use to improve children's progress. Once, Tanya noted that a child had a series of chronic ear infections during a period when he also was not showing any significant growth in language development. They worked with the child's pediatrician to provide better treatment, follow-up, and prevention to reduce the number of infections. They also worked with the disabilities specialist to plan some supplementary activities to help the child catch up.
Examine Data for Patterns
As a team, Tanya, Maria, and Sylvia gather the child health and assessment data for the program year to look for areas of improvement and need. They look across the program to see the most significant health impacts. They target health factors that have helped children progress and that have been barriers to child progress. Using their findings, they celebrate their successful strategies and plan strategies to improve health services.
Ultimately, Tanya and Maria support Sylvia and their school readiness team in each of the school readiness steps. They contribute by working directly with families and staff to promote children's optimal health and well-being in order to help them get ready for school.
Last Reviewed: June 2014
Last Updated: August 28, 2014
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