Getting kids ready for school
The resources that all children need to develop their talent and potential may be thought of as a grid, much like the power grid that delivers energy across a region. Some communities are not plugged into the resource grid – and children in these areas have only patchy access to schools, healthcare, nutrition, and the other resources that children need to thrive. To strengthen this grid, we must focus on the areas where the grid is weakest or in most need of repair. In connecting all communities, we strengthen the health of our entire county and we build a future with a better quality of life for everyone.
Keeping our children healthy is the foundation of a healthy community and a healthy, prosperous future for Alamance County. Our intent for the Healthy Kids initiative is to create a community that connects children to the opportunities they need to be physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively ready for school.
Investments in early childhood education (from birth to age 5) have been proven, in numerous studies, to deliver significant, measureable economic returns — higher educational achievement, higher earnings in adulthood, lower risk of dropping out of school or getting into trouble with the law, and more.
One study of a half-day, public preschool program for children in Chicago estimated a return of $7 for every dollar invested. In a study conducted here in North Carolina, disadvantaged children who received early childhood education were healthier than their peers years later. For example, they had lower blood pressure, lower rates of metabolic syndrome and lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease — than their peers.
The overall takeaway from this body of research: what happens in the earliest years of life can have effects across the lifespan, so devoting resources to children’s needs is a smart strategy. The improved educational and health outcomes from early childhood education mean lower costs for healthcare, the justice system and government social services in the long run — far outweighing the cost of those early childhood investments.
Impact Alamance is conducting a study with Elon University and the Alamance-Burlington School system to assess kindergarten readiness needs here in Alamance County. That report will be made available on our website later this year. Those findings will help guide early childhood funding provided through Impact Alamance.
Building Healthy Environments
A community’s physical environment has a dramatic effect on the health and wellbeing of children and adults. A healthy community enables walking and cycling by building trails and bike lanes, improves access to healthy food through community gardens and farmer’s markets and enables social connections by ensuring public parks are safe and accessible. These sensible steps increase neighbors’ physical activity, improve their nutrition and safeguard their mental health.
On the other hand, it is much harder for people to stay healthy if the environment makes it difficult. For example, it’s harder for children to get enough physical activity when there are no safe, appealing or accessible places to play. Lack of sidewalks or play areas in neighborhoods can contribute to sedentary habits, which in turn lead to a great risk of being overweight and obese and the health problems that accompany those conditions.
According to 2015 Community Health Assessment, over 30 percent of Alamance County children are overweight or obese — some 12,000 children. Obesity is a top contributor to heart disease, cancer, stroke and other diseases. Obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is directly linked to environmental factors.
To enhance our region’s wellness environment, Impact Alamance’s invested $500,000 to a new splash pad in the city of Burlington to encourage families and children to remain active and go outdoors, even during the hot summer months. We have invested in outdoor learning environments at Allied Churches and Alamance Community College, along with numerous other projects designed to increase access to physical activity. You can learn more about our most recent investments here.
Alamance Wellness Collaborative
The Alamance Wellness Collaborative is led by Impact Alamance, Healthy Alamance and Healthy Places By Design. The collaborative is made up of 25 organizations representing county and municpal governments and nonprofit, education, healthcare and business sectors. Wellness Collaborative members include many professionals who work either directly or indirectly in areas that impact the health and well-being of Alamance County residents. This group is focused primarily on promoting changes to the built environment and creating policy changes that have a lasting impact and influence the health of the community rather than focusing on individual behavior change.
Click here to view Alamance Wellness Collaborative’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2018.