Friday, August 09, 2013

Walczak creates chances for change

Buried away in his campaign website is an extraordinarily thoughtful idea by Boston mayoral candidate Bill Walczak.  It represents the kind of thinking that can occur at the local level by people willing to think creatively and across disciplines.  This one is about education and health care.  Here's the quote:

Early education works best when parents are prepared and supported in their role as their child’s first teacher, and this needs to start with prenatal care. . . . The challenges that confront young people in many of our neighborhoods in Boston include violence, chronic poverty, poor housing, and unhealthy environments among others. These difficulties spill over into their social and educational experiences. The term applied to these phenomena is “toxic stress.” Strong evidence points to the physical and emotional toll that toxic stress places on children, including compromised brains and bodies.

I strongly believe that connecting our schools and health care providers will help to reshape some of these experiences. Our health care institutions need to become more proactive in integrating the realities of childhood poverty into their interventions. At the Codman Square Health Center, we replicated an approach developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute that includes group visits for expectant parents. This model connects parents to each other, their pediatrician/family physician, and the resources they need to support their children as they grow. One of the results was increased infant birth-weight, an important indicator of a child’s ability to develop, learn and thrive. Connecting this model to early childhood education and expanding the program to infants and toddlers will result in better care for children as they grow. This approach requires no major expense; just a reallocation of how already approved prenatal visits are used. As Mayor I will work with community health centers and other prenatal programs to expand group pre-natal and pediatric visits to include early childhood educators, supporting parents as first and primary teachers. This will build community capacity by linking families with each other and institutions at the early stages of parenthood.

This is good stuff.  Actually, very good stuff.  It's not surprising that Bill, who founded the Codman Square Health Center and served as its CEO for 32 years, would understand the interplay of education and health care.  But he takes that understanding and uses it to come up with a conceptual design for an initiative that would build a stronger sense of community and would not bust budgets.

I don't get to vote in Boston, but I find myself wishing I could. I know who would get my vote.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I should move to Boston and vote for Mr. Walczak. We could use thinking like that here in Philadelphia. I am not from here but have grown to like it. I have concerns for its future. Over a third of residents are in poverty and one in eight are in deep poverty (half the poverty level) a percentage exceeded only by Detroit.