As a pediatrician, it is my duty to insure children under my care have the opportunity to achieve their full developmental potential. During the 20 minute office visit I have with a parent and their child, I must strive to instill a few words of parting wisdom that will optimize that child’s chances of staying safe and living well. I can only pray that my words will help protect that family until their next visit with me months, or even a year, later. The recent tragedy in Newton made me painfully aware of the limitations of my profession. Every town, city or hamlet has great individuals and great agencies attempting to prevent injury, promote health, and protect the children in their midst. But only thru collaboration can these committed individuals and organizations, effect real and permanent change on the great problems adversely impacting our youth.
The Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County is making a concerted effort to accomplish this. The “Coalition” is an amalgam of concerned businesses, tireless citizens, and dedicated agencies who are willing to put resource sharing cooperation ahead of “market share” competition to protect our children against three local leading causes of morbidity and mortality. These include SIDS/unsafe sleep, drowning and childhood obesity.
In their recently released review on child deaths occurring in Florida during 2011, the Statewide Child Abuse Death Review Committee found that nearly half of the 126 child deaths verified as caused by abuse or neglect involved drowning or unsafe sleep. These tragedies can be prevented.
During the 2011-2012 school year, 11 Collier County public elementary & middle schools had obesity rates exceeding 30% of the student population screened. In addition, a nonpartisan group of 100 retired generals and admirals recently reported that “Being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service.” The tide of this weighty epidemic must be turned.
In 2012, the Coalition took action on these pressing issues. I would like to share some of the Coalition’s contributions and accomplishments over the past year:
- 21st Century Oncology SWIM Central – 500 children ages 3 to 5 each participated in ten 30 minute water safety lessons. These children came largely from disadvantaged daycares where access to swim lessons is difficult.
- Splash Initiative – Over 250 at-risk families received water safety education and door alarms.
- Water Smart Babies – Over 10,000 English/Spanish/Creole pamphlets have been distributed by area pediatricians since the launch of this program.
- Make a Splash – Water Safety Events – 400 middle and high school students were given education on water safety and CPR.
- Whole Foods Market Kids on the Go! – 500 elementary school students ran the equivalent of a marathon over a 6-12 week period.
- Golden Gate Kiwanis Summer Run4Fun – 150 families participated in the 8 week summer fitness program.
- For Safest Sleep Put Your Baby Alone On His/Her Back In A Crib! Campaign – All nursery nurses at NCH and Physician’s Regional participated in a required SIDS reduction class. 112 pack n plays were purchased for families in need of a safe place for their baby to sleep.
Details about these and other additional programs facilitated by the Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition are contained in the full report (2012 SHCC Annual Report). I cannot adequately express my gratitude to each and every Board member, volunteer and business partner who has stepped outside their traditional “sphere of influence” or proverbial “comfort zone” to make these programs possible. Yet, I feel we have only just begun to realize our potential as an organization. With a new year opening its doors, I am excited to see more great people and more great partners from our community appreciating the intrinsic value of the Coalition concept. If we can protect our children from tragedy and help children make healthier choices, we have done a great deal toward insuring these children will indeed fulfill their developmental potential and become the next generation of great individuals. Thanks for all you do.