PA Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for Stronger State Investments in Pre-k
Pediatric Residents Visit Lawmakers, Rally for Early Learning
HARRISBURG (May 16) – Pediatric residents from across Pennsylvania today called on Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers to increase investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs to help more children grow up healthy and succeed in school and beyond.
The residents visited the Capitol on behalf of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PA AAP), which today released a new report – Making a Healthy Investment in Child Development: The Benefits of High-Quality Pre-K – detailing how quality pre-k programs can help promote healthy cognitive, social and emotional development.
“One of the most significant periods for a child’s physical, mental, social and emotional growth is before they even enter kindergarten,” said PA AAP President Susan Kressly, M.D., FAAP. “These earliest years are a relatively brief window of opportunity that can make a huge difference in determining whether a child has a solid foundation for a lifetime of success – and high-quality pre-k helps build that foundation.”
The PA AAP is supporting the Pre-K for PA campaign’s call for a $90 million increase in the state’s pre-k investments for fiscal 2016-17 so an additional 7,400 Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds can benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity. Even with the proposed increase, more than 107,000 at-risk preschoolers will miss out on high-quality pre-k next year, so additional increases must be made in the years ahead.
Dr. Elaine Donoghue, M.D., FAAP, emphasized the role quality pre-k can have in mitigating the negative consequences of “toxic stress” – the extreme, frequent and long-lasting stress that often affects children who must endure poverty and other adverse conditions beyond their control.
“Toxic stress can actually alter the architecture of a young child’s brain, bringing with it long-lasting negative impacts that can undermine the ability to learn, think, react and interact with others,” Dr. Donoghue said. “Research shows toxic stress can be mitigated by the type of caring, stable and supportive environments found in high-quality pre-k programs. That’s why pediatricians support quality early learning as a critical tool to aid healthy development.”
High quality pre-k programs not only prepare children for success in school and in life, but these programs also have been shown to promote good health in childhood and into adulthood. The PA AAP’s report notes participants in high-quality pre-k programs tend to have more positive health and safety habits, better diet and exercise routines as adults, and lower rates of smoking, substance abuse, diabetes, stroke and heart disease over the course of their lifetimes.
Despite these many benefits to individuals and society, most of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds lack access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k, and many of those missing out are at risk of academic failure. The most recent data shows that, among the approximately 175,000 Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds at greatest risk of academic failure due to living in lower-income households, nearly 70 percent – or about 120,000 children – lack access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k.
The PA AAP is a state-level organization of approximately 2,200 pediatricians who are dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of children and the value of pediatric practice. The Pennsylvania chapter supports the national AAP agenda for children and work on children’s initiatives that are specific to Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.paaap.org.
Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign supported by individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania who believe that investing in our children is the right choice and an urgent necessity. Our vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. We will not endorse nor oppose candidates, but rather we will advocate on behalf of this vision for Pennsylvania’s children, schools and communities. For more information, visit prekforpa.org.