Easterseals announced that it received a $750,000 grant from the Abbott fund to pilot the Project on Education and Community Health Equity.
The grant will fund the project from now through 2025, with the three-year initiative aimed at addressing systemic barriers to high-quality education and healthcare experienced by children and families in underserved communities.
According to a news release, research demonstrates that young children, particularly children with disabilities and children of color, face significant gaps in access to crucial health and social services that can provide the targeted support they need to be prepared to succeed in school.
The company cites an example of a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics showing that Black children with autism and other disabilities are diagnosed an average of more than three years after their parents express concerns about their development. Such delays in diagnoses could mean that children miss out on age-appropriate care and chances to improve health and cognitive skills.
Easterseals intends to create an integrated system to address the educational and healthcare needs of children to help them reach their full potential. The project includes expanding access to essential physical and mental health screenings and care for children, providing targeted social services to help families overcome gaps in basic needs, nutrition, transportation, and other social and economic barriers and ensuring that early childhood administrators and educators have the right training to identify and address health and social challenges and provide culturally appropriate support for children.
The project will be implemented at Easterseals Childhood Development Centers in Southern California, Atlanta and North Georgia, and the greater Washington, DC, area.
“We’re proud to support Easterseals’ important work to help close equity gaps in education and community health,” Abbott VP of Global Marketing and External Affairs and President of the Abbott Fund Melissa Brotz said in the release. “We’re committed to advancing health equity and fighting racial health disparities, and our partnership with Easterseals will help reduce barriers to care for children, their families and their communities.”
The project builds on previous programs from Easterseals, including the Black Child Fund that it launched in 2021 with support form the Abbott Fund. That program advanced early identification and interventions among black children with autism and other disabilities to reduce health disparities often experienced in early childhood.
Abbott said the Abbott Fund investment launched pilots at Easterseals locations serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford, DuPage and the Fox Valley Region (Illinois), and Kansas City and St. Louis (Missouri).
“Through the Project on Education and Community Health Equity, it is Easterseals’ intention to address the disparities in healthcare among young children in low-investment communities and to understand the connection between health equity and early childhood educational attainment,” Easterseals National Director of Childhood Development, Education and Equity Erika L. Watson said. “We intend to center the experiences of children of color and their families, for whom inequities have only been exacerbated because of the pandemic.”