Local Collaboration to Enhance Prevention Efforts Through Shared Messaging

Shirley Ritter directs Kids First, an early childhood resource center serving Pitkin County. Read her reflection on promoting local collaboration for preventive efforts and how Kids First used Early Childhood Shared Messaging as a tool to support these efforts.

by Shirley Ritter, Kids First in Pitkin County

“We live in such a beautiful place. Look at the blue sky, the aspen trees, the mountains, even the babbling rivers; what could possibly be stressful about living here?”

This is often the first response I get from community members when I begin a conversation about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or toxic stress. No matter where you live, we know that young children are at risk for stress, triggered by multiple sources, that can have life-long consequences. We also know that with supportive, responsive relationships, these effects can be prevented.

I’d thought about this issue, and worked with other local agencies to plan for prevention programs for children and families; our agency also provides family education based on “emotion coaching” and the work of John Gottman. It still felt like this issue was not getting the attention it deserved. When I heard about the efforts of the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership (ECCP) to share common messaging across the state, that partners have been working on positive and effective messages, and that there was a mini-grant available, I was sold.

We used the mini-grant funds to pay for a graphic artist who used beautiful pictures of children incorporated into the shared messages developed by ECCP and stakeholders, who by the way know a considerable amount more about this topic than do I! The shared messaging having to do with children who thrive, about prosperity, and about resilience really resonates with families. I am writing this in the hope others might be inspired by have done in other communities; that we will all approach families in a way that shows we understand. Toxic stress is described as prolonged adversity, such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. In addition to the ECCP, there is a wealth of information at Center for the Developing Child at Harvard to help you understand and convey important information about what children need to thrive.

Our next steps included adding a page to our website with basic information, local resources, and websites with helpful information for families. We used the materials we developed on social media, local newspaper advertising, and on our website.

I asked our local partners that serve children, youth and families to link to our webpage and share our message on their social media. There seems to heightened awareness lately for prevention programs, but not everyone knows just how young that starts, or exactly what that could look like. I am a big believer in collaboration, and this effort has reinforced that for me, and given us all so many ways to paint the picture of what it looks like for kids to thrive in our communities, and our state! Let me know what you’ve found to be successful so we can continue to share in this success.

Reach out to Shirley at [email protected]

Project: 9 Ways to Grow Healthy Colorado Kids

Organization: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Unit

Location of Messaging: Statewide

Speaking With One Voice are nine audience-tested early childhood obesity prevention messages and supporting content to address important healthy lifestyle behaviors found most promising in preventing overweight and obesity before it begins among Colorado’s youngest children. The goal of the initiative is to ensure pregnant women and families with infants and young children hear consistent messages in multiple settings where they spend time and interact with community members that potentially influence health behaviors.

Since 2015, the 9 Ways to Grow Healthy Colorado Kids messages are being used statewide by diverse partner organizations including public health and primary care clinics, WIC Programs, hospitals, early child care homes and centers, recreation centers, libraries and others. No cost messaging materials are available at www.colorado.gov/cdphe/9-ways-grow-healthy-colorado-kids or simply search on One Stop ECOP Shop. Resources include downloadable posters and handouts, provider talking points, newsletter templates, social media guide, messaging video, an electronic form to order materials and more!

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Unit invites you to join this statewide effort in sharing these messages and supporting rationale and tips in your counseling, education, and community messaging promotion efforts. We maximize messaging when all public health programs, health care providers, early care and education professionals and other partners work together to deliver consistent, accurate and consumer-tested messages. Together, we can make a greater impact!

Project: Kids First

Organization: City of Aspen — Kids First

Location of messaging: Pitkin County

We have used social media and PSA’s to draw attention to this issue. We have also created a page on our website titled “Kids Thrive” and have asked other local service agencies to link to this page. This page continues the message, but also has information about local health and mental health resources and services – http://www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Kids-First/Kids-Thrive/. We will use some print and digital advertising to support this message.

 

Collateral Materials (click each to access): 

Focus on What Matters Most

A Strong Foundation Begins Early

A Strong Foundation Begins Early 2

Help Kids Grow Positively

Help Kids Grow Positively 2

We Thrive When Our Kids Thrive

We Thrive When Our Kids Thrive 2

Project: Earlier Is Easier

Organization: Earlier is Easier

Location of Messaging: Denver-Metro Area

 

Earlier Is Easier is a collaborative of 28 Denver-area organizations working collectively to promote the value of interacting with children from birth to age three. Our messaging encourages simple activities related to talking, reading, singing, playing, laughing and writing that parents and caregivers can do each day to foster healthy brain development while also building strong emotional bonds.

We have two websites, that were just redesigned: www.EarlierIsEasier.org and www.Espanol-EIE.org. Both sites include age-based tips and activities, information about the science of building healthy brains, local community resources and more. We also have printed “tip cards” that are distributed on child-friendly plastic rings via our partner organizations, community programs and at a variety of events.

EIE’s websites and tip cards underwent content and language revisions in 2016 to incorporate messaging from the shared message bank. We connected our existing learning messaging in many places to activities and concepts that also foster social emotional health and building positive relationships. Some examples include: promoting serve and return communication; strengthening relationships through shared play and laughter, and encouraging activities that involve meaningful interactions between parent/caregiver and child.

 

Project: Shared Messaging in Adams County

Organization: Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County

ecpacLocation of messaging: Adams County, Colorado

Introduction to the Message Bank completed. Materials for Early Childhood Mental Health are being developed and are planned to be released in March 2017. Training to community cross-domain partners scheduled for April 2017.

Currently no collateral materials available.