by Tom Vitaglione
The brain is one of the only organs in our bodies that are not fully developed at birth. The first eight years of a child’s life – and especially zero to three – make up an intensive period of brain development that will affect a child’s health and behavior for a lifetime. That’s why NC Child advocates for early action to protect and improve children’s lifelong health and well-being. All aspects of a child’s early environment are critical: a strong, nurturing family & community, good nutrition, preventive health care, quality early childhood education, and a physical environment that promotes healthy development.
We are delighted to report that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has published for comment a draft North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan. The Plan seeks to create a cohesive vision, set benchmarks for impact by the year 2025, and establish stakeholder accountability to achieve statewide goals for young children from birth through age eight. The Plan focuses on goals around three central themes: that North Carolina’s young children are 1) healthy; 2) safe and nurtured; and 3) learning and ready to succeed. Click here to view the draft Early Childhood Action Plan.
DHHS coordinated with a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across the state throughout 2018 to develop the draft, which also builds on the extensive collaborative efforts of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative, the NC Perinatal Health Strategic Plan, and others. All of these efforts raise awareness of the inter-connectedness of a broad array of indicators – physical health, social-emotional well-being, food security, safe and secure housing, high quality early learning programs, and more – to improve early childhood in North Carolina.
We encourage everyone to read the draft and provide comments by November 30 to ECAP@dhhs.nc.gov.
All comments to improve the draft will be most welcome. For example, NC Child will be making comments that the section on Safe and Secure Housing does not pay enough attention to the negative effects of exposures to environmental pollution such as lead on the health and learning potential of young children. You may have comments on this and other areas of the draft.
The final Plan will be published early in 2019, and will become a framework for improving early childhood in our state. We encourage you to take this opportunity to lend your voice to this exciting initiative.
Support NC Child’s work to ensure a strong start for all NC kids. Click here to make a donation today.