The Central California Children’s Institute presented a “Call to Action” on campus Monday, discussing issues facing the youth of the Valley.
More than 175 people attended the forum, which included government leaders, faith-based leaders organizations, social services, educators and over six counties in the Valley.
Dr. Cassandra Joubert, Director of the Central California’s Institute and professor in the department of Public Health, said Monday’s event is important to the Fresno State community.
“We often forget how important it is to keep the issues facing children front and center,” Joubert said.
Tim Curley, the director and community and government relations spokesperson at Valley Children’s Hospital, said the biggest challenge for children in relation to their health is directing influences by their social statues.
“A lot of kids in the Valley live in families that are below the federal poverty level or just above it and still struggle,” Curley said. “There is a clear link demonstrated through data – a clear link between poverty and health statutes and the poorer the income, the worse the health status is of the population.”
Joubert said that health does affect how well a child performs.
“Like one of our participants said today, ‘You can teach a child how to read, but if they don’t have good vision or they don’t have access to vision care and eye glasses, then teaching them to read is going to be pretty challenging’ so good heath is absolutely essential for becoming educationally prepared.”
Dr. Cassie Hartzog, postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Regional Change and leader of Monday’s event, said she’s always been interested in why some people have better health than others.
“The Center of Regional Change and Sierra Health Foundation – which sponsored this work are deeply committed to reducing social inequities and addressing some of the root causes for health disparities,” Hartzog said. “So understanding why some children aren’t doing well in school and aren’t graduating from high school, or why some children have higher rates of asthma than others, or why some children are more likely to be overweight and obese than others. A lot of it goes back to underline kind of social inequalities around race, ethnicity.”
Hartzog said she believes there should be universal health care.
“Yes,” Hartzog said. “Personally, this is my personal belief – I won’t speak for the Sierra Health Foundation – although I suspect they feel they same way. I think of health care as of kind of a fundamental right, and that that everyone should have access to high quality healthcare regardless if they can pay for it.”
Hartzog said it’s not the fault of children who lack the resources of good health insurance.
“It makes me very sad,” Hartzog said. “Through no fault of their own, some children are severely disadvantaged and they’re born into families or communities or situations that don’t set them up for success.”
Curley said poverty does influence how well a family is able to care for the health of their children.
“They are dealing with issues and health problems that they otherwise wouldn’t have to deal with, whether it is an illness that could have been prevented, illnesses that aren’t being managed. So the kids aren’t feeling as well as they could be, and further they’re not as productive as they could be,” Curley said. “And they’re missing days in school, they’re falling behind in school, they have behavior problem, and in the end they’re not going to be able to realize their full potential.”
Curley said there are many organizations that are involved in the wellbeing of the children at the hospital.
“The Children’s Institute here at Fresno State is one of the most important incentives or efforts that Valley Children’s is involved with when it comes to supporting the needs of children and families of the Valley,” Curley said. “But there are others as well, there are a lot of county based organizations like the First Five organizations. Each county has a First Five agency, the County Offices of Education and other healthcare providers.”
Curley said the First Five organizations were created by voters who passed a tax addition on cigarettes about 15 years ago and that revenue is used by those agencies to support newborns to the age of 5 who get a head start on their first few years of life.
Joubert said that the institute is the only organization that is supported by more than one college on campus.
“Our institute is supported by five colleges,” Joubert said. “The college of Health and Human Services, the College of Science and Math, Social Sciences, Jordan School of Ag, and the Kerman School of Education.”
Joubert said she loves working with other colleges who all have the same mission.
“In order to turn that around, we have to invest in children. We can’t simply say that things will change on their own, we have to actively invest in children,” Joubert said. “The children are our future.”