University of Nebraska Medical Center


Public Health Practice – For children to achieve academically, they must be prepared to enter school. FAMILY, Inc. was founded in 1991 upon the principle that school readiness could be achieved by partnering with parents during the critical early years of life to equip parents with the skills they need to prepare their child for formal education. To comprehensively address the challenges children were experiencing it was determined that the curriculum would need to include a focus on the physical and social-emotional needs of the entire family. The evidence – based model, Parents as Teachers (PAT), was selected and has now been utilized across Pottawattamie County for more than 25 years.

In 2010 the organization was expanded as FAMILY was awarded the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) block grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The Title V MCH program seeks to ensure women, children and families have access to quality maternal health and child health preventive services (including oral health care).

This integration of public health services uniquely positioned FAMILY to address the multi-faceted needs of children and families and has further emphasized the importance of implementing prevention-based strategies.

Three of FAMILY’s newest initiatives have built upon this comprehensive approach to serving children and families:
1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative. The goal of 1st Five is to bridge public and private health care systems to improve the early detection of social-emotional delays and increase the prevention of mental health problems for young children and their families. The key elements of the 1st Five approach include enhancing well-child exams by identifying best practices for health care providers, mental health screening and referrals for children and families, and ensuring effective care coordination throughout the assessment and intervention process.

Dentist By 1 Initiative. Dentist By 1 is an educational campaign to increase access to early dental care. The campaign has facilitated cross-sector collaboration to expand messaging and improve the capacity of local dental providers to see children under the age of 3. The Initiative has also included the establishment of a Children’s Oral Health Stakeholders Coalition.

Raise Me to Read. The Raise Me to Read initiative was developed to support and expand local efforts in Council Bluffs, Iowa and across Pottawattamie County to address the three critical areas identified by the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading – attendance, school readiness and summer learning.  The framework outlined will build on existing infrastructure and resources, facilitate effective new strategies, and drive community solutions to impact reading proficiency. The goal is to create an environment that will help parents succeed in their critical role as first teachers and best advocates.

Through these initiatives and others, FAMILY remains committed to its mission of building a strong foundation and healthy future through education, advocacy, support and community connection. Learn more about FAMILY, Inc. at http://www.familyia.org/

Sarena Dacus, MPH serves as the Executive Director at FAMILY, Inc. and is UNMC College of Public Health alumni.

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