Sunday, April 18, 2004

County program keeps eye on kids

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Meghan Dobbins, 4, plays with a pipe from a sand play area in one of the rooms at the Cincinnati Learning Center day care in Walnut Hills on Friday.
Cincinnati Learning Center lead teacher Sarah Giller jumps rope Friday with Antuan Cannon, 5, at the day care. Giller had her class outside for a little play time.
Photos by ERNEST COLEMAN/ The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County is picking up a program that offers advice to day care centers about how to handle childhood health issues.

The program, which started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center last year, links child-care providers in Southwest Ohio to a registered nurse.

The nurse is there - either in person or on the phone - to answer questions about nutrition, hygiene, communicable diseases and general safety concerns.

But Children's Hospital had staffing changes, which made it difficult to stabilize the program, said Alicia Leatherman, executive director of the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association in Columbus.

A public health nurse with the Hamilton County General Health District is now assigned to the program. Child-care providers, who encounter everything from head lice to flu outbreaks, say they are pleased to keep the resource.

"It's good to have a nurse who can work with us on refining our health and safety standards," said Patricia Gleason, executive director of Cincinnati Early Learning Centers, which has five locations.

Hamilton County has a $17,100 contract from the state child care association to run the consultation program until June 30. The two sides are exploring a long-term contract after that.

The state child care group has used $240,000 in federal grants to set up consultation programs at nine sites throughout Ohio.

Since July 2003, the program has made 592 on-site visits to Ohio child-care centers and 572 phone consultations.

Mary Sacco, director of nursing for Hamilton County, said it's important for public health officials to maintain a good relationship with child-care centers.

"This is a great opportunity for us to work in a setting where we've had concerns about the prevention of childhood disease," Sacco said.

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