Giving Families A Better Start
Preventive Health Education Identifies and Addresses Critical Family Health Issues
Under the direction of Kineret Shakow, EdD, A Better Start, the preventive health education component of the Women & Children's Service Line at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, received a grant from the School District of Philadelphia to provide nutrition education to 27,000 low income children (K-8) at 32 local elementary schools. The school district’s EAT.RIGHT.NOW program is funded through Pennsylvania State University’s PA Nutrition Education Tracks program.
A Better Start (ABS) offers preventive health education on a wide variety of crucial issues for families - from newborn baby care to violence prevention, from asthma and diabetes to nutrition and weight management, and even offers specifically designed programming for the high percentage of Southeastern Asian families in Einstein's primary service area.
Through A Better Start programs, families - whether they consist of caregivers who are single parents, teen parents, grandparents, relatives, or foster parents - get personal attention and guidance to help the family stay healthy and safe.
The ABS parenting education and support groups, parent/tot play and learn sessions, and parent/child workshops give families and opportunity to strengthen their caregiver/child relationship, obtain knowledge about child temperament and development, and gain skills that foster healthy living and resiliency.
ABS nutrition education and counseling assists families in identifying healthy foods that create a balanced diet and that are necessary for their children's development. ABS also offers programs for obese children that incorporate exercise and nutrition education for weight management.
The chronic disease workshop series provided by ABS helps individuals who have and/or care for individuals with chronic conditions, such as asthma, arthritis or diabetes, learn skills and strategies to effectively self-manage the condition.
"Parents just want the best for their children, but when they don't have the resources they need, it can pose a challenge,"says Kineret Shakow, EdD, Director of A Better Start. "Our programs help them fill in the gaps to create healthier, happier families."
"We know that A Better Start works because after people attend one of our programs, they come back to us asking for more..."
The scope of ABS services is broad but the all share one common factor - fun. "One reason our programs have such an impact is because people enjoy them,"explains Dr. Shakow. "Life is very hard for many of our families and fun is in short supply. By creating a program that lifts their spirits while providing them with important information fulfills several needs."
Not all the changes start with the families at home. Through its many neighborhood and school programs, ABS is changing behaviors throughout the community. Peer counseling training programs provide students from Central High School with skills to support students in other schools. General health programs for pre-school and early elementary school children cover topics about hygiene, indoor/outdoor safety, smoking, drugs, guns, safe and unsafe touch, 911 as well as nutrition and exercise. The EAT.RIGHT.NOW partnership with the School District of Philadelphia serves more than 5,000 children each year helping them learn how to make healthier food choices.
"Some changes are small - for example, parents tell us that their children are asking for and eating healthier snacks in their lunch boxes. Other changes - such as when an Asian family that doesn't speak English is able to get valuable healthcare information in their own language - can have a huge impact," says Dr. Shakow. "We know that A Better Start works because after people attend one of our programs, they come back to us asking for more...sometime they even suggest topics." The tremendous success of A Better Start relies on the concept of "being community" - people with shared concerns coming together for a common purpose - and that purpose is to care for one another.