As a grant award winner for the Early Childhood Block Grant, LiveWell Northwest Kansas focuses on families most at-risk with regard to mental health disparities and initiates a series of programs targeting the most at-risk families to:
Decrease toxic stress by using Parent Coaches to provide "in the moment" feedback to parents
Strengthen parent-child bonding and stimulate children's early language, cognitive and social development by using certified Parent Coaches to facilitate parents' mastery of specific skills for interacting with their infants
Teach healthy eating and physical activity in preschools and family childcare centers to ensure healthy brain growth and reduce obesity rates of young children and their families
Provide parenting classes by certified Parent Educators for at-risk families to reduce risk factors for child abuse and neglect and increase protective factors for safe, stable and nurturing relationships
To promote early literacy skills to increase 4th grad reading levels in USD 315.
Before retiring from the organization late last year, former LiveWell Executive Director Sue Evans explained there is an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the idea that children inherit chronic stress from their parents which contributes significantly to chronic disease as an adult.
"I think the compelling research sets a strong theoretical foundation to guide LiveWell's work for successful (Early Childhood Block Grant) programming," explained Evans. "Studies tell us it is imperative to start at the earliest ages, prenatal to age 5, if we are to prevent health disparities."
She goes on to explain that hundreds of research papers have been published since an original study was conducted in 1998 called The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which linked childhood trauma and adult onset of health problems related to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, depression and mental illness. The study provides a psychological explanation that diminishes stigma, judgment and blame frequently associated with obesity and mental health, explained Evans.
"The ACE trainings and workshops attended by (LiveWell) staff have profoundly influenced our early childhood work," she said. "And, knowledge of this research demands that innovative policy, system and environmental changes must be implemented."
The study Evans refers to acknowledges that "if a lifetime of negative health consequences caused by ACEs are to be impacted, screening for ACEs and trauma-informed, resilience-building practices based on the research need to be put into practice in communities, education systems, public health, social services, faith-based organizations and criminal justice."
The block grants awarded to LiveWell will support preventative efforts for the entire context in which people live and work, to counter complicated behavior choices of unhealthy eating and limited physical activity, and to identify and work on the factors that can be changed in a person's life.