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Mel Gravely

How COVID-19 is Affecting Regular Health Screening for Head Start Children

To understand the effects of the pandemic on medical care, researchers with the COVID-19 Outbreak Public Evaluation Initiative (COPE Initiative) developed a web-based survey that asked respondents if they had delayed or avoided medical care due to concerns related to COVID-19. The COPE Initiative is a public-private partnership between the Centers for Disease Control, universities, and private foundations to “assess public attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and to evaluate the mental and behavioral health consequences of the pandemic.”

The results of their survey are concerning indeed. They found that more than 40% of American adults have avoided or delayed receiving medical care and people with multiple underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, are significantly more likely to avoid urgent or emergency care compared to people without these conditions. 

The COPE Initiative’s finding are among the more notable findings from a study published Sept. 11 in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study, “Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19-Related Concerns,” presented the results of a survey taken by more than 5,400 adults in the last week of June.

For Head Start children and families especially, complications and fears associated with accessing health care brought on by COVID-19 pose an immense threat to children’s health. Recent data analysis from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed that this year there was a significant decline in critical primary and time-sensitive preventative services for young children — services that, for decades, Head Start has successfully delivered to families and young children from at-risk backgrounds.

The data showed that compared to 2019, infants and toddlers received fewer vaccinations, fewer child screening services that assess physical and cognitive development; and fewer dental services. Early identification and intervention, especially in the case of developmental delays, can have lasting impacts on the effectiveness of interventions. Screening early matters, and this is what Head Start does best. 

The National Head Start Association (NHSA) says that Head Start has always filled a critical role in helping families access primary care for their children. (In fact, physical health is part of Head Start’s core philosophy of caring for the whole child.)

In a recent article, “Screenings are Down and Head Start Steps Up“, NHSA writes, “Access to transportation and the ability of Medicaid providers to communicate in patients’ primary language are common barriers for families who partner with Head Start. To address these obstacles, Head Start programs complete screening in the program, providing transportation and translation, and find families’ medical homes.”

For more than 55 years, Head Start has integrated health care access, immunizations, screenings, and developmental supports into the comprehensive services offered to children and families. Head Start remains committed to triumphing over all barriers that prevent adequate care for young learners. 

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  1. Janet Eades says:

    The. children have to have and bring with them the immunizations before they enter Head Start. Am I missing something?

    • Paulette LoMarro says:

      Ideally yes that would be great but many families struggle to find medical homes for their children and Head Start can help them location and make an appointment with pediatric offices and dental offices. We also have a signed consent form from the families and can contact previous offices and help them gather medical records if that helps the enrollment process! She their are several mandatory medical tests/screenings that need to be done once enrolled in the program and they have 30/45/and 90 day deadlines! Hope this helps.

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