MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN
“Tear down this wall.” I was only a high school student when then President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and issued this famous challenge to his counterpart from the Soviet Union. 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demolition. Few can now refute that a united Germany wields significant influence over European affairs.
Tearing down walls is synonymous with Coalition building. If we only live and work within our traditional “walls,” we preclude the ability to realize our true potential as a society. The NCH Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition is committed to recognizing obstacles adversely impacting Collier County youth and working with community partners to overcome these obstacles. Over the past 3 years, the Coalition has tackled the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among Collier County children – drowning, unsafe sleep and obesity.
Unfortunately 2013 brought with it several local childhood tragedies which poignantly revealed new barriers to our ability to cast a strong safety and wellness net. The Coalition immediately reacted to these tragedies, some of which are delineated in the “Why we will never forget” vignettes outlined in the following annual report. These innocent lives lost remain the motivating force behind the Coalition’s indefatigable resolve to make this area a safer and healthier place for the nearly 80,000 children who call Collier County home and for the countless more who visit our perennially accommodating climes. These vignettes also unveil the value of the Coalition building concept – when a formidable wall declares itself, the NCH Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition mobilizes new partnerships that can successfully analyze and surmount that obstacle.
It is my hope that in 2014 our Coalition partnerships will continue to grow particularly in the arenas of unsafe sleep and childhood obesity. This past year at least four newborns perished in Collier County from SIDs/ unsafe sleep related causes. The Coalition’s outstanding Safe Sleep Committee has worked tirelessly to educate caregivers of newborns that the safest place to put a newborn is alone, on their backs, in a barren crib. However, expectant mothers and sleep deprived fathers need to hear the safe-sleep message REPEATEDLY. We hope media outlets, local retailers who sell baby products, and leaders from the areas faith based community join the Coalition’s effort in spreading this safe sleep message. Regardless of your religious persuasion, one has to admit that the nativity scene remains one the most well-known examples of safe sleep.
During the 2012-13 academic year, no public elementary or middle school in Collier County had an obesity rate exceeding 35% of the children screened. In 2011-12 there were 3 schools within this category. Despite these successes, there were still 7 schools with obesity rates exceeding 30% in the 2012-2013 academic year and NO public elementary or middle school has touted an obesity rate less than 10% of those screened for several years. The children who are slowly maimed by the ill-effects of obesity fail to capture the media’s attention as those who might perish suddenly from drowning or SIDS. The initial teasing and loss of self esteem suffered by these children in the early school years often gives way to joint problems, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and hypertension in adolescence, finally yielding to major end organ damage (i.e. heart and kidney disease) in adulthood. Coalition building remains the ONLY way to successfully reverse this disturbing epidemic. The movers and shakers within this community must be willing to bring down barriers and invest in synergistic cost saving and life saving initiatives. Paraphrasing the points outlined by the State surgeon general’s Healthiest Weight initiative, our Coalition must elevate exclusive breastfeeding rates, motivate parents with corportate wellness/ insurance incentives, create access to affordable quality produce, and expand culturally sensitive fitness/ nutrition programs.
It will be impossible to individually thank all the great volunteers, agencies, councils, businesses and healthcare providers who have poured their faith, fellowship and fortitude to assist the Coalition in its ongoing effort to tear down these walls. Please know that your investment in this mission is appreciated beyond any printed word (or social media outlet) can capture. Thanks for believing in the value of this journey and in understanding the importance that only by working together can we overcome the great problems which threaten our area’s most precious commodity – our children.
Thanks for all you do.
C. Todd Vedder, MD, FAAP
2010 – 2013 Chair
NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition