The Health District’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Child Care Health Outreach Program (CCHOP) has a long history of spearheading efforts to protect children at the population level by focusing on working with childcare providers. There are many environmental health risks to children which are exacerbated by communicable disease exposures such as COVID-19. CCHOP is an innovative program that works to keep children safe and healthy through upstream promotion of healthy early childhood development through collaborative population-based interventions that support and educate the childcare community.
The Children’s Healthy Learning Environments in Low-Income and/or Minority Communities solicitation (RFA) provides funds for capacity building activities to address disproportionate children’s environmental health harms and risks in school and/or childcare settings in, or that primarily serve, low-income and/or minority communities. This RFA provides funding directly to organizations to support school- and/or childcare center-based capacity building projects that help school communities understand and address local environmental and public health issues that affect children.
If funded, the Health District CCHOP staff will educate the childcare community on simple low- or no-cost methods that can be implemented by childcare facilities and have a positive effect on environmental health factors affecting children. In 20+ years of childcare health consultation by the Health District, these simple practices are rarely observed being put into practice, likely because childcare providers are unaware and uneducated. Some examples are:
- Flushing the cold water tap before obtaining drinking water and not cooking with water from the hot tap reduces lead exposure.
- Removing shoes before entering childcare spaces reduces the toxic substances in the carpeting and on the floors where the youngest children play.
- Improving ventilation in indoor areas by opening windows in a manner that promotes air flow, properly managing and maintaining HVAC systems, correct placement of air filtration devices, etc. Sharing information on ventilation through an online class which provides childcares with required continuing education credits can be an effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and improve indoor air environments in childcare settings.
- Chemicals are often misused and overused, especially during the pandemic. Childcare providers are unaware of the dangers some of these chemical pose to young children. Childcare providers do not have a lot of knowledge of indoor air quality and ventilation and do not have the same resources and maintenance staff that schools do. Sharing resources and information through an online training on proper methods of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting in childcare environments during and beyond the pandemic could reduce toxic exposures to young children.
In Washington State, childcare providers must take 10 hours of continuing education, commonly known as STARS credits, each year. The Health District CCHOP staff are certified trainers and can offer continuing education units (CEUs) to childcare providers through our existing Learning Management System that has amassed an audience of 4,406 learners. Some of the existing Health District CCHOP courses are already available online and others can easily be put together using the vast number of resources from the EPA, CDC, and other public agencies. The MCH CCHOP team would propose using existing Environmental Health courses and creating new courses with content from EPA, CDC, and other reputable agencies. These courses will target childcare providers as a way for them to fulfill the required 10 hours of continuing education per year. In order to meet the requirements for equity, we can ensure free access to our target audience, while allowing others to continue to access the materials. For example, a fee is normally charged for these trainings, but by providing free access codes to childcare providers in low-income areas and those serving low income and minority families, we will ensure there is equitable access.
The award ceiling is $200,000 covering a project period of March 1, 2022, to February 28, 2024. There are no matching requirements but it does require an indirect cost agreement, without which 10% will be automatically applied; however, the Health District finance department will propose the indirect rate to submit with the application. The MCH supervisor has also emailed EPA for further clarification but has not yet heard back. The funds will be used to cover general fund FTE expenses within MCH programs and existing activities. We therefore do not anticipate that there will be any additional staffing required.