October is National Children’s Health Month, and the week of October 19-23 is Health Education Week. So, for the October Partner Spotlight, HCP would like to recognize two members of our team whose work focuses on providing outreach and educational opportunities that highlight the importance of protecting and promoting our children’s health: William McMahon, Jr. and Francine McBride from Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.
National Children’s Health Month is recognized by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a time to “remind us of the importance of protecting our children’s health from environmental hazards in places where they live, play, and learn.” Children are more vulnerable since they are growing and developing, therefore more sensitive to environmental hazards like lead, mold, or chemicals. Additionally, children move and interact with the world around them in different ways, crawling on the ground instead of walking for instance, so environmental hazards can pose an even more significant threat than they would to older children or adults.
The CDC has multiple programs for communities to use as resources to make sure children are safe in their environments, indoors and outdoors. Below are a few suggestions for how to get involved and take action:
Another resource to lift up during National Children’s Health Month is Safe Kids Worldwide. Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 by Dr. Marty Eichelberger of the Children’s National Hospital with support from founding sponsor, Johnson & Johnson, that works to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the United States and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Safe Kids research shows that, “preventable injuries are the #1 killer of kids in the United States.”
This past month, Safe Kids Worldwide released a Pedestrian Safety Study that revealed some alarming trends, such as “Every hour, about two children age 19 and under are injured or killed after being struck by a vehicle while walking.” Moreover, the research shows that “When age is taken into account, non-Hispanic Black children under age 12 are at three times greater risk than their non-Hispanic White counterparts and non-Hispanic Black children ages 12 to 19 years are at more than twice the risk than their non-Hispanic White counterparts.” An explanation for this alarming disparity is provided:
Black/African American and Hispanic or Latino households continue to have the lowest annual income in the U.S., which may help explain some of the increased risk among non-Hispanic Black/African American and Hispanic children. Low-income neighborhoods are significantly less likely than higher-income neighborhoods to have marked crosswalks, sidewalks, street lighting and streets designed to promote lower vehicle speeds. They also often have fewer parks and playgrounds and more major roadways with increased traffic volume, curbside parking and street vendors that attract children to roadways.
Making sure environments—indoors and outdoors—are safe for all children is critical to creating and maintaining a healthy community. To help us achieve these goals, Healthy Community Partnership is grateful to have the support of outstanding community education professionals like Mr. McMahon, Jr. and Ms. McBride as a part of the Active Transportation Action Team to help us make our streets and neighborhoods safer for all residents, especially the youngest among us. In addition to participating as members of the Healthy Community Partnership, Mr. McMahon and Ms. McBride are active in other community coalitions such as Safe Kids Mahoning Valley, the Youngstown Promise Neighborhood’s Health and Wellness Committee, and several others. Mr. McMahon and Ms. McBride are always there to lend a hand and offer their help, to distribute bike helmets or healthy food vouchers—these two community health educators go above and beyond to make sure children and families in the Mahoning Valley can live safe, healthy, active lives.
Bill McMahon, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley
Bill McMahon, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Community Programming and Education & Coordinator for Safe Kids Mahoning Valley
Francine McBride, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley
Mission: To prevent unintentional childhood injuries, with a focus on car seat education, safe sleep for babies, and teen driving.
Francine McBride, Community Outreach Education Coordinator
Mission: To focus on healthy lifestyle educational programs to help families live a more active and healthier lifestyle. Also focusing on childhood literacy, teen outreach groups, and designing programs to help the most vulnerable populations in the Mahoning Valley.
What is the most significant challenge(s) for kids in the Mahoning Valley to eat healthy and be physically active?
Access to opportunities for healthy food is one of the biggest obstacles for families in the Mahoning Valley.
What projects/initiatives are you involved in that help to address these issues?
Akron Children’s now participates in the Produce Perks Program. Produce Perks enables Ohio’s low-income families to purchase healthier foods. Eligible families may receive a Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Booklet worth $40, redeemable at participating locations for fruits and vegetables. In addition to our efforts in Community Outreach and as part of the Akron Children’s Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, providers in our primary care offices screen patients and families at annual well visits for things like food and housing insecurity, safety, and lack of transportation or childcare (also known as social determinants to health) that can impact a child’s overall physical and emotional health.
What is the most rewarding/exciting thing about the work you do?
Just being able to be there for people and help them with education to live a healthier and safer life.
What does success look like to make the Mahoning Valley a healthier community for kids and families?
We are very fortunate to have so many community partners to work with, and we all do our best working together to help people better their situations as best as possible. You will not find better people to be around then what we have here in the Mahoning Valley. It’s a wonderful place to work and live.