Children, The Family and Health: What it Takes to Give Children Long Life
The Hawaii Workshop: Panel III
Moderator: Dr. Viopapa Annandale, Samoa
Panelists: Gail Breakey, Hawaii; Jane Bates, USA; and Kristine Neeland, Hawaii
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health is a state of mind; physical, mental, social and spiritual being rather than the absence of disease. The work of establishing a quality state of health begins at birth. Loving and nurturing parents who create a safe environment in which conflicts are minimal or resolved will have the healthiest children. Violence and sexual exploitation create negative environments leading to unhealthy individuals.
The components of health are:
1. Physical: Nutrition is the foundation. Breast milk is important for a healthy baby. Samoa has a food and nutrition policy. The policy tries to promote breast-feeding and stop the inappropriate sale of infant nutrition products. Anemia and malnutrition are two areas where Samoa is trying to improve conditions for children. The solutions lie in the social, economic and political arenas. Good eating habits must be established early. Currently 1 in 4 Samoans suffer from Diabetes.
2. Mental health: Physical punishment and strong verbal correction are commonly used. Parents expect compliance; there is a serious conflict if children do not conform. The literacy rate was in the 90% range in Samoa, now that is dropping. Dropouts are often children where the family does not have the school fees and the child must work to help support the family.
3. Spiritual health: The culture of the country is founded upon non-material values traditionally. There has been a tolerance and appreciation of others’ beliefs and culture. Daily family prayers and meals were a common time together. Now that is being replaced by hastily prepared meals in front of the television. There seems to be a common thread in the presentations so far, whether it is a developed or developing country. Families, once the center of life are fragmented.
4. Conclusion: NGO’s need to lobby governments in order to secure what we need for children.
This program reached out to families in need who have many issues, which seem overwhelming to them and make it difficult to parent. It is a comprehensive program. The aim is to promote healthy development mentally and physically. Reducing stress, setting goals and creating a safe environment strengthens the family. The human brain develops through nurturing and parenting of the child. Children who do not receive proper stimuli such as holding, affection, and face to face interaction have delayed development.
The family goes through an interview to determine their strengths and needs. The program interviewer uses a checklist with a high score indicating high needs. Examples of need include: abuse to the parent, abuse of the child, other domestic violence, chaotic lifestyle and non-bonding with the child by the parent. The goal is to find a more holistic way to serve the needs of the child in their home.
The outcomes goals for 1998-1999 are: reduced abuse or neglect, full immunizations by age 2, increased first term pre-natal care, increased child development referrals, increased participation in parenting classes and educational opportunities for parents.
This program is relationship based and family centered. The functioning level of the families is enhanced through values. One goal is to promote self-sufficiency for the parent through household and family planning. Another goal is to promote healthy family bonding among all members. Education to promote non-violent methods of discipline and good nutrition is encouraged. Medical personnel make home visits. To provide a constant in the life of the parent and child, they are assigned to the same medical team for the first 5 years. Parents are involved in support groups. The key to success for this program is that there is teamwork with many other community agencies on behalf of the family.
The SELF program targets young women in the inner city. Jane’s group in St. Paul, Minnesota has a high percentage of African-American and Asian refugee youth. Some students have been involved with gangs. Young people are attracted to gangs seeking respect, nurturing, support and status. Once involved with the legal system, the gang may shut them out.
In elementary schools the SELF program involves girls in groups. They feel that they have special status, learn decision-making skills and self-care. In junior high girls belong to after school programs where they concentrate on peer relations and self-image. In high school the focus is leadership skills. Students from a SELF group in St. Paul helped plan and give a PPSEAWA UNESCO workshop on Teens, The Family and Health.
SMART is a Science, Math and Technology interest support group. Unfortunately, our society is less likely to support a girl in her aspirations in these areas of study in high school or higher education. This group helps with role models and introduces the scientific method in grade schools so that it is comfortable and familiar.
Youth Achievers is an after school program offering safe and healthy alternatives for latchkey children in grades 2 through 7. The YWCA tries to help families safeguard children during unsupervised hours while parents are working.
The success of the program is consistency, trust and respect. As the adult, you MUST do what you say you will do. Children need lots of encouragement. They need to be taught to respect adults, friends and themselves.
Jane then lead the group on a highly emotional and touching guided return into our childhood:
Close your eyes and relax. Think about your life as a girl, breathe deeply. Think back in your life. See the relationships of the people who were important to you. Your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your friends. Who among that group made a difference in your life as a young adult? See yourself with that person. What were the feelings of love and what were the feelings of confusion? What did you do in your spare time then? What did you look like? Picture yourself. Which teacher had the most influence over you? See that teacher. Which other person had influence in your life? When you started to menstruate, did you know what was happening? How did you feel? Who was there to support you when you felt that way?
Return to age 5. See yourself in your home. Take a walk through that home. What do you smell? What do you see? How did it feel to be there? When did you feel happy? Safe? Unconditional love? Who was with you most often when you felt that way?
Return to the present. This was a sample of the kind of techniques SELF uses to put girls in touch with themselves. The major question for us at this workshop is: How can we provide the sense of security in young women today that we enjoyed?
Questions and Answers:
Flora Krissiloff: What are the funding sources for these programs?
Healthy Start: The original source was Federal funding. Then Hawaii state funding picked up. There is Medicaid reimbursement also. The YWCA SELF program is funded through the United Way and other foundations.
Question to Healthy Start: Can volunteers be trained to do the checklist and home visits? Yes, if they are well trained and well supported. The estimated cost of staff for a family for a year is $2,500. The community workers have a caseload of 15 families and visit once a week.
Question for SELF: how are parents involved? Answer, they are not formally involved, but benefit from the results. The program is just for young women.
Last Modified: June 05, 2010