Haslam: Promote Health Of State's Children
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As flu season approaches, we frequently hear reminders about getting immunized to protect ourselves against the flu virus. This is particularly important for children, who can become very sick if infected with the flu. Vaccines are just one of many ways to help keep your child healthy.  Tennessee’s children are our most precious resource, and we all play a part in keeping them healthy and ready to learn. With that in mind, I have proclaimed the week of October 3 as Child Health Week in Tennessee.

This commemoration coincides with the national celebration of Child Health Day, first proclaimed in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge. The theme for this year’s Child Health Week is “A Healthy Tennessee Begins with a Healthy Me.”  That message emphasizes the role that each of us plays in keeping Tennessee’s children healthy.

Tennessee has a long history of achieving good outcomes for children’s health in this state. In the 1970’s, Tennessee was the first state in the nation to pass child safety seat legislation, paving the way for reductions in child fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions. Tennessee has also achieved national acclaim for school vending policies that support nutritious food choices for students and for achieving the nation’s highest rates of immunization among toddlers. Most recently, we celebrated Tennessee’s highest-ever ranking in the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Release.  The Kids Count data shows that over the past decade, we have made remarkable strides in reducing infant mortality and decreasing child death rates and the teen birth rate.

Despite these successes, there is still ample opportunity to improve the health of Tennessee’s children.  Whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors or business owners, we all can impact children’s health and benefit when they have a healthy start to life.

What are some things that you can do to help keep our children safe and healthy?

• Young children should always ride in a car seat or booster seat, and when they are older, they should always wear a seatbelt.

• Infants should sleep in a safe sleep environment. Remember the ABC’s of safe sleep:  infants should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.

• Make sure your child gets regular checkups by a health care provider. Those visits are a great opportunity to get caught up on vaccines, learn ways to keep your child safe and healthy and discuss any concerns you might have with your child’s provider.

• Children should always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard.

• Do not smoke. Even if your child is not nearby when you smoke, tobacco smoke can stick to your clothes and can be dangerous for your child.

• Always look out for things that might cause injury. Injuries are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 24. Make sure you childproof your home and closely supervise your children. Injuries can happen in an instant—so stay alert.

Another simple way to promote your child’s health and brain development is to read to him or her every day. The First Lady has been traveling across the state promoting the importance of reading to our children. Take the time every day to sit down with your child and read a book to him or her. Children who are read to are more likely to learn to read on schedule and are more likely to have larger vocabularies. Reading to children can help them be ready to learn once they start school. That, in turn, helps our state prosper as these young Tennesseans grow up to be an important part of a strong, vibrant workforce.

During Child Health Week, and every week, I encourage you to think about ways you can promote the health and well-being of Tennessee’s children. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.  If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at bill.haslam@tn.gov.
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