The Empower Pack and Child Care Centers

Yesterday, Nov. 16, there was a press conference in which ADHS Director Will Humble discussed a new initiative integrating efforts between Child Care Licensing and Prevention Health Services. As you may have read in the newspaper, Child Care Centers are facing economic challenges from changes in the economy and increases to their operating costs resulting in a recent increase in licensing fees.

Seizing the fact that Child Care Centers are a hub of activity for families and offer an access point for critical public health prevention messages, the Bureaus of the Arizona Department of Health Services Prevention Services Division have been brought together by Jeanette Shea, to develop a plan to help.

The proposal includes a one time emergency use of Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant funds to be used to incorporate nutrition and physical activity into the child care curriculum and after school programs; and, to use tobacco tax funds to incorporate some age-appropriate tobacco prevention education into the curriculum and after school programs, and provide an emphasis on a new, yet untapped, access point for parents to receive information and referrals to smoking cessation services. In addition, Child Care Centers will be tobacco-free on a “24/7” basis, which has particular implications for home-based child care centers.

The idea is to expand The Empower Pack as an outreach effort BTCD is developing with ADHS’ Bureau of Nutrition to combine tobacco prevention messages, nutrition and physical activity for 8-12 year olds in targeted schools.

This one-time grant to child care centers would give these centers relief from the unexpected rise in the cost of licensing. In exchange, the centers will be designated as “Empower Centers,” as they incorporate tobacco education, physical activity and nutrition messages into their curriculum, serve as distribution and access points for smoking cessation inform services for parents (approx 100,000 statewide), and ensure total tobacco-free properties (thus reducing the harmful risks of second and third-hand smoke).

Funding levels (contributed by three bureaus) will be further assessed as the roster of participating centers is defined, with funds rolling out as center licenses are due for renewal over a three-year period.

Wayne Tormala

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