Preschool: A Child’s First Step to Health and Success - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Preschool: A Child’s First Step to Health and Success

Children in some neighborhoods of Cincinnati can expect to live nearly 20 years less than children in other neighborhoods.

Let me restate that.

Children in some neighborhoods of Cincinnati can expect to live nearly 20 years less than children in other neighborhoods.

As a pediatrician dedicated to improving children’s health and wellbeing, that really irks me.

I can help my patients get all of their required shots. I can treat their ear infections, sore throats, and chronic medical conditions. But I cannot give my patients the one thing that research has consistently shown will lead to better health, and longer, more productive lives for my patients—a preschool education.

Less than half of Cincinnati’s preschool-aged children are enrolled in preschool. They start school behind and are rarely able to catch up.

My colleagues and I care for children from Cincinnati neighborhoods where poverty and crime are unfortunately commonplace. Most of my patients come from single parent families. Sadly, several have parents who are incarcerated. Some of my patients were among the 2,149 children that were victims of abuse or neglect in Hamilton County in 2014. Many do not have access to high-quality preschool.

If my patients are a guide, though, parents want their children to attend preschool—all of my patients’ parents want the best education possible for their children. It’s just that there are not enough slots available.

Issue 44 could change that. Issue 44 is a levy on the ballot this November. It is a partnership between Cincinnati Public Schools and Cincinnati Preschool Promise, overseen by United Way, which would expand access to high-quality preschool programs for children in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Children’s supports this levy – our children need this access to preschool when they are three and four years old so they can enter the school system ready to learn.

Preschool sets children up to be ready for kindergarten, to read by third grade, to graduate high school and be prepared for life success.

Preschools also improve health. Children practice healthy dietary habits and fundamental gross motor skills, such as climbing, learning to skip and playing with balls through the programs preschools offer. Preschools help identify mental and behavioral problems, language and speech issues, oral health problems and abuse and neglect. When these concerns are identified early, they can be addressed earlier, and more effectively, in the healthcare setting.

A decade of investment in preschool for Cincinnati’s children would provide access for 20,000 more children. It would also lead to 4,000 fewer crimes in our city, reduced child abuse and neglect by 27%, increased personal income through better-paying jobs, and healthier children in ALL of Cincinnati’s families.

I will be voting yes on issue 44 on Election Day. I hope after drawing your own conclusions, you will join me.

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Dr. Kristen Copeland

About the Author: Dr. Kristen Copeland

Kristen Copeland is pediatrician in the division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s. She is also a researcher, focusing on how the childcare environment affects children’s health. She has 10 years of research experience in the childcare setting and currently serves on several national committees related to childcare settings, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Early Education and Child Care.

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