The Project on Education and Community Health Equity (PEACHE) Closes Gaps in Critical Care

A child’s early education and healthcare needs within the first five years of life are critical to their long-term well-being and development.

As part of our DEIA work, the Project on Education and Community Health Equity, PEACHE, addresses barriers to education and healthcare experienced by BIPOC children and families. PEACHE ensures that a child’s health and education needs are met so they are kindergarten-ready – set up for success in school and in life.

Funded by a generous grant from the Abbott Fund, with additional support from CareSource, Easterseals will pilot PEACHE from now through 2025, implemented first at Easterseals Childhood Development Centers in Southern California, North Georgia, and the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Why PEACHE Matters

Each year, more than one million children enter kindergarten with an undiagnosed developmental delay. Easterseals wants to ensure that all children start kindergarten with the right skills to succeed alongside their peers, which makes these first five years of childhood development so critical for lifelong success. Easterseals provides valuable child development services to help guide all parents through these early years. We know during this time, a child’s brain develops connections that serve as the basis for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills and emotional well-being.

In 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released preliminary data revealing that the rates for primary and preventive healthcare services among millions of children from low-income families declined substantially. According to the CMS, “This decline in care for millions of children from low-income families will potentially have a significant impact on long-term health outcomes for the nearly 40 million children in the U.S. who rely on Medicaid and CHIP, including three-quarters of children living in poverty and many with (healthcare needs) including infants, toddlers, and young children with disabilities.”

Easterseals shares the belief with the National Education Association that, “Access to effective, diverse programs breaks down structural barriers that have prevented all children – particularly children of color and children from disadvantaged families – from achieving their full potential.”

Dr. Hailey Love, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains, "This curriculum is a great opportunity for educators to reflect on their practices and consider how they can ensure their classroom and practices are both inclusive and culturally-responsive. This approach to teaching can help make the classroom a more welcoming and supportive place for all children and can ultimately help teachers support the growth and development of children with disabilities, particularly children of color with disabilities."

Three Areas of Success

The first phase of this project is a three-year pilot program with PEACHE will improve cultural competency and heighten awareness of bias among early childhood educators and community health workers to serve BIPOC children and their families better, so children in under-resourced communities can reach their full potential.

The project focuses on three areas of success:

  • Increasing availability of high-quality resources: Developing a professional development curriculum training and resource library.
  • Providing targeted social services: Helping families overcome gaps in basic needs, including nutrition, transportation, and other social and economic barriers. The comprehensive care aligned with PEACHE includes early identification and interventions for developmental delays, autism, speech, language, and emotional and behavioral conditions that may require additional services.
  • Broadening the availability of valuable data: By building a data dashboard, we’ll better understand the relationship between access to early childhood healthcare and educational performance.

Free Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators

Easterseals has developed a new professional development curriculum training for early childhood educators in Head Start programs that serve young children of color with or at risk for disabilities and their families.

Offered to attendees at national convenings, including the Division of Early Childhood National Conference, National Head Start, and the American Educational Research Conference, we want to make this resource available to many. The professional development training is a free online curriculum for early childhood educators and supports inclusive and culturally responsive practices in the classroom.

The curriculum training enhances early childhood educators’ knowledge and skills on:

    1. Identifying and addressing implicit bias and its impact on children’s opportunities and teachers’ practices
    2. Identifying the intersection of racism and ableism and their impact on children of color with disabilities
    3. Learning about families’ experiences and cultural backgrounds from a strength-based perspective.

Improving Health Equity

We want to create measurable improvements in support from teachers and clinical coordinators who are critical to ensuring children have medical home and meet social determinants of health. The impact will improve the school readiness of children in BIPOC communities as well as improve relationships between health care and education service providers. By establishing the data-proven link between health and education needs and the gaps that exist for low-income communities, we seek to codify this program for scaling nationally, benefiting even more children and families to improve health equity.

For the latest on PEACHE and other initiatives at Easterseals, sign up for our e-newsletter.

What Can You Do?

Donate to help Easterseals continue to support early education programs for children with disabilities.

Learn how Easterseals supports school readiness through inclusive education and our nationwide network of Child Development Centers.

Share our free, online child development screening with parents who may find it helpful. Many children, especially children in low-income households, are not receiving needed services and supports that will help them achieve success in school due to undiagnosed developmental delays. Our Make The First Five Count screening tool helps parents identify developmental challenges their children might face and connects them to services in their area.

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