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Healthy Kids 2010

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Mayor Wesely and the Children
"I have long felt that children are our most important resource - the key to our future. It is this belief that prompted me to hold a conference on children's health. I would like you to celebrate with me, "Healthy Kids 2010

The Mayor’s Children’s Health Conference, held on Wednesday, January 10th, was a day-long series of presentations and discussions to kick-off an initiative I will lead this year to publicize the efforts of our Health Department and support new programs to improve children’s health in Lincoln, called Healthy Kids 2010.

Spending on children’s health issues provides the greatest bang for the buck, mostly because these programs focus on prevention and provide greater health outcomes over the long run. As a State Senator and Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, I introduced literally hundreds of bills to provide funding to support public health and raise the standards of what we as citizens should expect from our public health institutions.

That legislation has been successfully implemented at our local health department in the following ways:

  • In 1988, the passage of LB 229 established a high-risk pregnancy program for low-income women in Nebraska. The Healthy Homes program in Lancaster County started in 1991 and currently receives over 200 presumptive eligibility referrals. All of the 200 referrals are pregnant minority women. In addition, the public health nursing division averages around 1,000 pregnant women contacts through presumptive eligibility each year.

  • In 1991, I passed the Childhood Vaccine Act. Vaccination is the key to better health for children. Adequate immunization protects children against several diseases that killed or disabled many children in past decades. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is instrumental in providing immunizations to children in our community. During the last fiscal year our public health nursing staff gave 24,701 childhood immunizations in our community. We have also seen a dramatic increase in the percentage of 2-year-olds up to date in their required immunizations at 24 months of age over the last decade.

  • During my last session in the Legislature, I sponsored LB 1070, that created the Excellence in Health Care Trust Fund. This legislation set aside the tobacco settlement and other state dollars to be used for public health purposes. Our health department was a recipient of two grants from the Excellence in Health Care Trust Fund grants that were distributed last year.

The Health Department received state grants for its Children's Environmental Health Protection Initiative and its Nurturing Parents Project. As I said when the grants were awarded, "Community health is a priority in Lincoln, especially for our children. This funding will help us address the infant mortality issue and the environmental hazards our children may face every day."

These examples only briefly demonstrate what I firmly believe: that the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is the standard by which all other local health departments should be measured in the State of Nebraska. We have a wonderful staff who constantly surprise me with their creativity and dedication.

However, we still have work to do. The Healthy People 2010 process has identified the goals our community has to improve the health status of our citizens. But the Health Department can’t do it alone. The only way we can be successful is with the support of the community-at-large.

The Conference helped us identify threats to our children’s health and gain a sense of what Health Department efforts our community feels should be strengthened as we strive to achieve our Healthy People 20-10 goals. It really is the local community that has provided a great deal of support to our local Department and the work of our Board of Health. This interest has helped Lincoln ensure that our citizens and especially our children receive the best start toward a healthy life.

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