Good health during early childhood is necessary for children to grow into well-developed adults.
Health habits set during childhood are often indicators of the lifestyle these children will grow into. During these key years of development, if children do not receive the correct nutrition, immunization, or physical care, they can be exposed to disease, obesity, dental decay, and terminal illness.
YWCA Spokane’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is battling these serious issues. ECEAP is a FREE preschool that promotes long-term success with school and life. ECEAP provides preschool education, family support, and health and nutrition services. ECEAP serves eligible children and families based on the federal poverty level to ensure the success of all kiddos. And perhaps most important to issues of children’s health, ECEAP ensures that each child receives medical and dental care to start school healthy.
As shared in the Women Helping Women Fund’s Report “Changing our Forecast,” a major issue Washington State and Spokane County are currently facing is getting children immunized. State records indicated that less than 60% of Washington preschoolers were fully immunized. Spokane County fared even worse, with only half of the preschoolers who completed the recommended course of vaccination. To start school, kiddos need these vaccinations:
- 1 measles-mumps-rubella,
- 2 influenza type b,
- hepatitis B,
- 1 varicella (chickenpox),
- and pneumococcus vaccines.
Childhood vaccination is the most effective way to protect children against serious, preventable illnesses, some of which have no cure or treatment. Washington state law requires all public and private schools with any students in grades kindergarten through 12th to complete and file an Immunization Status Report by November 1 of each school year. Figures show that mothers with low-income levels cannot provide these vaccinations.
YWCA Spokane’s ECEAP can help low-income families with ensuring their children are healthy and ready to start kindergarten. ECEAP requires that the children be adequately immunized to be in our program, and our goal is to have every child fully immunized to start kindergarten by the end of the school year with us in ECEAP. Only 70% of ECEAP participants in Washington State were fully immunized when they began ECEAP; by the end of the school year, 95% of students became immunized due to ECEAP assistance and intervention.
In addition to sharing the state of vaccinations among kiddos in Spokane, the Women Helping Women Fund’s report also showed how children in Spokane County are facing another health concern as they grade school: dental care. In 2015, dental decay affected 53% of Spokane third-graders. Disparities can be considered by looking at decay experience for elementary students who attend schools with high free- and reduced-lunch eligibility (considered low-income schools) versus those who attend schools with fewer eligible students. At higher poverty schools, 69% of students had evidence of dental decay, significantly higher than the 53% of students with such evidence at higher-income schools.
ensuring dental treatment
As a requirement of ECEAP, our kiddos have to have a dental screening every 6 months. To ensure that ECEAP kiddos have healthy teeth, YWCA ECEAP has a dentist and their crew come to classes to perform dental screenings on every child that is in need of one.
In the 2017-2018 school year, 765 children received dental treatment from ECEAP programs around Washington State. 51% of ECEAP kiddos became up to date on their dental screenings. Of the children ages 2 to 5 eligible for Washington Health Care Authority Dental Services, 65% received dental services within the past year, while 95% of ECEAP children did.
Building healthy Lives
Beyond dental care and immunizations, ECEAP helps with a child’s health in every way possible. ECEAP kiddos receive hearing screenings and vision tests each year on site. ECEAP requires “well-child exams” to ensure kiddos are physically healthy in terms of weight, their heartbeat, and blood pressure (think of them as a physical). ECEAP kids are required to have a well-child exam at the start and end of each school year. When ECEAP children arrive at the beginning of the school year, 61 percent are up-to-date on well-child exams. This is close to the statewide completion rate of 62% for children ages 3 to 6 on Medicaid. Through ECEAP interventions, 93 percent of children become up-to-date on well-child exams.
Often, this is made possible due to the incredible work of our Family Service Coordinators. Family Service Coordinators (FSCs) works directly with the parent in helping them obtain adequate medical and dental coverage for the family if they do not already have it. FSCs can assist in finding the appropriate resource for families, helping fill out paperwork, providing a computer for families to use, and even obtain the bus passes to families to an appointment if needed.
ECEAP’s success is clear not only through the numbers, but through parent testimonies too. One ECEAP parent said:
“For the past two years my child has grown in leaps and bounds. It wouldn’t have happened without ECEAP. The teachers and other staff have supported my child and my family and I can’t thank them enough.”
HOW TO APPLY To YWCA’s ECEAP
YWCA Spokane has 4 ECEAP classrooms where we proudly educate and support boys and girls and their families. You can get a registration form from one of our ECEAP locations or use the online ECEAP APPLICATION form and return it via email to the ECEAP location you would like to apply for.
A special thanks to the Women Helping Women Fund and Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families for their support in providing statistics featured in this post.