Free health screenings, medical information and follow-up services will be offered to nearly 750 local children who attend state preschools at health fairs in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara and Lompoc over the next several weeks.
Nurses, medical assistants, health advocates and volunteers from more than 20 agencies will provide vision, hearing, and height and weight screenings. In addition, dentists and hygienists are volunteering to provide dental screenings and fluoride varnish at the events organized by the Health Linkages Program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Child Development Department.
“Illness can interfere with children’s learning and development, and early recognition of health problems results in more effective treatment,” county Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone said. “These health fairs will not only identify children with health concerns but will provide families with the resources to address those needs.”
The health fairs are scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Isla Vista Teen Center, Oct. 18 at Franklin Community Center in Santa Barbara and Oct. 25 at the Lompoc Unified School District’s Adult Education Center.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional organizations, periodic health screenings for preschool children are important for many reasons:
» Hearing is central to language development, communication and learning. An estimated 35 percent of preschool children experience repeated episodes of ear infections and intermittent hearing loss, and nearly six in 1,000 children develop some degree of permanent hearing loss by the time they start school.
» Nearly one in 20 preschoolers has a vision problem, but these young children do not know that the way they see the world is not the way everyone sees it. Many abnormalities are treatable if discovered early, but left untreated they can lead to vision loss and blindness.
» The prevalence of obesity among U.S. preschoolers has doubled in recent decades, making it a nutritional concern nationally for low-income preschool children. Childhood obesity increases the risk for adult obesity and is associated with a number of health problems.
» Dental disease is common among young children, particularly those from low-income families, but few preschool-age children ever visit a dentist. Fluoride varnish has been found to be effective in preventing cavities in the primary teeth of young children.
The agencies providing health screenings include Santa Barbara County Public Health, American Indian Health Services, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Santa Barbara City College and California State University Channel Islands nursing programs, Santa Barbara Business College, Goleta and Lompoc Lions Clubs and the Lions Sight and Hearing Center of Santa Barbara, Family Service Agency, Community Action Commission, Dorothy Jackson Family Resource Center, Promotores de Salud and local dental providers.
Staff from Isa Vista Youth Projects and Family Service Agency Family Resource Centers will offer case management assistance for each child who needs a follow-up exam or treatment in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Lompoc. Direct Relief International is providing family dental kits.
Agencies that will provide health and safety information and answer questions include the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services MediCal Outreach and Public Health Department Children’s Health and Disability Prevention Program, Santa Barbara County Children’s Health Initiative, CALM, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, CenCal Health, Santa Barbara Fire Department and Police Department, Santa Barbara County Food Bank, Planned Parenthood, Domestic Violence Solutions, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, SBCEO Migrant Education Program and Welcome Every Baby Program, Nutrition Network, and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Additional organizations that want to participate are invited to call Health Linkages coordinator Georgene Lowe at the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 805.964.4710 x4455.
— Dave Bemis is communications director for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.