Investing in Positive Development!

Over the last year, Tahaddi’s community health center has been implementing a new and promising program: the Well Child Program. The WCP is adapted from a similar program in the Canadian health system. It promotes long-term community health by screening young children for genetic or chronic conditions, such as heart problems, hip displacement, or growth delay, while counseling parents on elements of healthy child rearing. These include maintaining a child-safe and stable home environment, vaccinations, appropriate nutrition, oral health and practical ways to stimulate and encourage child development.

Tahaddi’s medical team has long observed the imprint of poverty on health. Poverty’s negative impact on physical and emotional development can start even before birth when expectant mothers lack access to pre-natal care or proper nutrition. As children grow and develop, the safety and stability of their home environment, the stimulation they receive from their parents, and even the ways they are held all impact their lifelong health. Early screening and intervention by trained medical and social workers may be one tool to mitigate the harmful effects of generational poverty on a child’s health.

Tahaddi Health Center has traditionally seen children in the context of urgent medical crises: broken legs, high fevers, etc. Injuries are among the most frequent reason why children visit the THC. Implementing the WCP expanded Tahaddi’s ability to offer preventative care and set aside a certain number of doctor appointments each day for the Well Child visits.

The reaction of the community to this new program has so far been overwhelmingly positive. Parents appreciated that Tahaddi’s medical staff is taking extra care of their children’s health. When Tahaddi opened registration for the WCP, the staff made some announcements and informed families with young children and expecting mothers that came in for traditional appointments. Additionally staff surveyed the immediate neighborhood and registered families with children 0-6 years old. But many of the families heard about the program through word of mouth and came enthusiastically to sign up their children.

Now that the program has been running for roughly one year, the staff has made several observations. Poor nutrition and oral health have been identified as one of the most significant issues. Another is food insecurity within the home, with families being forced to skip meals for lack of means. Additionally, children are primarily eating starches such as rice, bread, and potatoes as well as too many sugary snacks. Some families are only able to provide their children with fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat twice a month. The medical staff has also observed anemia in young children as they move from milk to solid food, often 6 months to a year later than recommended, which can affect how they learn and how active they are in later years. When such cases are identified, the Tahaddi team works to support the family through food vouchers and other nutritional interventions. The THC also offers education on oral health and subsidies for dental treatment.

January 8 2018

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