A SMART START 

A SMART START

Since getting a $650,000 grant from Le Bonheur Health Services, Inc., the Early Childhood Collaborative Alliance (ECCA) is on its way to attacking the root causes that affect the well being of young children.

Phase I, or the assessment phase, of the program has developed a Web-based Shelby County health directory, identified best-practice intervention models, and encouraged the interest of the local community in an early-intervention collaborative.

According to ECCA executive director Barbara Holden, those goals have been reached.

"The directory will be posted on the Le Bonheur Web site in the next few weeks," she says, "listing daycares and other services for parents."

ECCA also reviewed the national best practices for children prenatal through 5 years of age. Programs like visitations by health-care workers to new mothers were researched to determine their effectiveness. To reach communities, focus groups were formed, headed by representatives from area organizations, including the University of Memphis, Girls Club, Inc., and the UT Health Science Center.

"We conducted clinics at 40 locations to determine what services community residents were receiving and what services they would like to see," says Pamela Coleman, a focus-group facilitator and associate executive director of Porter Leath Children's Center. "Interestingly, results of the clinics were the same wherever we were. People reported that they wanted and needed the same services."

From the findings, a preliminary recommendation for a community institute for early childhood was proposed. The institute would facilitate efforts for children through their preschool years. Its board would include representatives from hospitals, county and city governments, and school systems.

The collaborative's next step is coordinating efforts with the Smart Start Initiative in North Carolina and working with local community and religious leaders to communicate its efforts.

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