Health screenings and information will be provided to nearly 150 children and their parents attending state preschools in Goleta Union and Carpinteria Unified school districts at health fairs at Isla Vista School in Goleta on Nov. 7 and at Aliso School in Carpinteria on Nov. 14.

The Santa Barbara County Education Office Health Linkages Program is bringing together staff from Santa Barbara County Public Health, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, and Goleta Union and Carpinteria Unified school districts.

Nurses, medical assistants and health advocates will provide vision, hearing, height and weight screenings. Volunteer dentists and hygienists will provide dental screening and fluoride varnish.

Additional agencies will be on hand to answer questions and provide health and safety information including: Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services MediCal Outreach, Santa Barbara County Children’s Health Initiative, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara fire and police departments, Santa Barbara County Education Office Welcome Every Baby Program, Children’s Health and Disability Prevention Program, Nutrition Network and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Additional sponsors of the events include First 5 Santa Barbara County.

Many professional organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend periodic health screenings for preschool children.

» Hearing is central to language development, communication and learning. It is estimated that by school age, new cases of permanent hearing loss occur in about six per 1,000 children. An estimated 35 percent of preschool children experience repeated episodes of ear infections and intermittent hearing loss.

» Young children with vision problems often do not know that the way they see the world is not the way everyone sees it. Vision problems, however, affect one in 20 preschoolers. Many abnormalities are treatable if discovered early, while left untreated they can lead to vision loss and blindness.

» Obesity has become a national nutritional concern among low-income preschool children. Among children 2 to 5 years old, the prevalence of obesity increased from 7.2 percent from 1988-94 to 10.4 percent in 1999-2000.

» Dental disease is prevalent among young children, particularly those from lower socioeconomic populations; however, few preschool-aged children ever visit a dentist. Fluoride varnish has been found to be effective in preventing cavities in the primary teeth of young children.

“Early recognition of disease results in more effective treatment. This health fair will not only identify children with health concerns but will provide families with the resources to address specific and general health needs,” said county Superintendent Bill Cirone, whose office helps coordinate the program.

As further assistance, the Isla Vista Youth Projects Family Resource Center Start staff will offer case management assistance to each child at risk who needs a follow-up exam or treatment in Goleta; the Orfalea Fund s’COOL FOOD Initiative is providing “s’COOL FOOD” bags with good nutrition and physical activity information that will be given to all parents who attend; and Direct Relief International is providing family dental kits.

For more information, call Georgene Lowe at the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 805.964.4710, ext. 4455.

Wendy Shelton represents the Santa Barbara County Education Office.