Green Mountain Care Board Hears from Early Childhood Experts
There is an increasing body of evidence showing that quality early experiences for the youngest children have long lasting benefits for their health.
Last week the Green Mountain Care Board, the body tasked with overseeing Vermont’s health care system, heard from Matthew Melmed, of Zero to Three – a national advocate for early childhood. He presented new data on the rate of growth in a baby’s brain, and how that growth is slowed when a baby experiences strong stressors, known as adverse childhood experiences. During early childhood, these adverse experiences have the strongest negative impact on long term health.
In the Lamoille Valley, the Lamoille Family Center and Building Bright Futures have long understood that parent education, parent support, and understanding the protective factors described so well in the Strengthening Families framework, have a real positive impact on the lives of our young children and families. These types of activities have been working to help young families of all types learn about how to build positive and helpful networks to support them in tough times and to build knowledge about taking care of young children.
If we are interested in reducing the cost of healthcare and other late interventions – like special education, incarceration, and the cost of chronic disease, there is compelling evidence that early childhood is the time to address these issues. A large and growing body of scientific studies show that a childhood full of stress leads to higher levels of obesity, smoking and heart disease, among other costly health issues later in life – and even earlier death.
One of the innovative and extraordinary approaches the Lamoille Family Center is piloting is a project developed by Dr. Bob Sege in Boston – DULCE. DULCE stands for Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone (yes – also “sweet” in Italian and Spanish). DULCE’s intervention adds a Lamoille Family Center employee as a Family Specialist to the pediatric care team at Appleseed Pediatrics. The Family Specialist is able to help young parents with all the potential connections, education, and supports available during this busy time.
This year at Appleseed, the Family Center introduced such a person – Jenn Chittick, through the DULCE project. Jenn is able to connect new moms with playgroups and baby chats, and she’s able to get legal help if a mom is having problems with housing, a car, or a domestic problem. Most of all she is able to offer concrete support at the most important time in those babies’ lives. Because Ms. Chittick is part of the Family Center staff, she is also on the Children’s Integrated Services team. This allows her to bring a diversity of resources into play for the families she works with.
Back at the Green Mountain Care Board, where the board and the Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) are trying to keep cost increases in health care low and to keep Vermonters healthy, this extraordinary opportunity to affect long-term health is worthy of significant attention.