Note From The Commissioner: Combining Education, Health, and Family Services
Friday Aug 24th, 2018
Last week, I had the honor of participating in the Early Head Start closing ceremony in Sandtown-Winchester, an event that marked an important milestone in many children’s and families’ lives. Early Head Start is an integral program that supports the Baltimore City Health Department’s mission of protecting health, eliminating disparities, and ensuring the well-being of our residents. As a physician, I have learned that there is no one single intervention that will improve health and learning. That’s why Early Head Start is so important – it combines high quality education, health, and family services.
As a mother, I have also learned that parents and families need a lot of support. Early Head Start programs provide that support in the form of services ranging from infant and toddler programming to parenting skills classes, health education, in-home interventions, and other key services to prepare children to enter school. These programs are proven to support the mental, emotional, and social development of children from birth to five years of age. Of note, children in Early Head Start programs have increased access to medical and dental providers and are more likely than their peers to go on to formal preschool programs.
In Baltimore City, we are proud to serve Early Head Start children (ages zero to three), women, and families. Two years ago, I was present at the opening of our then-newest Early Head Start location, in Sandtown-Winchester. Since then, through the leadership of Mayor Catherine Pugh and our incredible team headed by Daphne Hicks, and with the support of the Maryland Family Network and many great partners, the Early Head Start program has grown to provide families with a variety of important child development and school-readiness services.
As we prepare to send off the youngest in our communities to start the new school year – some of them for the very first time – it is important to remember the role of “upstream” programs like Early Head Start. We recognize the significance of early childhood development in determining a child’s likelihood for future success and we are putting evidence into practice through the Early Head Start program. Together, we at BCHD can help all Baltimoreans live longer, healthier lives, and that starts with all of our children achieving their full potential.
Leana Wen, M.D., M.Sc.