Group improving lives of area children |

Group improving lives of area children

Success of the Healthy Children Initiative 2001 celebrated

Jennifer Bartlett

— Many of the stories in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center highlight the heroic efforts of search and rescue crews working day and night to find victims trapped in the rubble.

Their efforts seem immensely larger than life to the people whose lives have been mostly uninterrupted in the communities of Northwest Colorado, Chris Spradlin, motivational speaker with the Leadership Experience in Steamboat Springs, told area health providers Thursday.

Their resolve, however, to put aside differences and work together is not an impossible lead to follow, he added.

Spradlin described to his audience an unusual group of people admitted to a New York City hospital.

They were not casualties of the initial blast, he explained. They were firefighters who had worked to the point of exhaustion because they refused to stop looking for people who still might be alive, he said.

“Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the saddest days in America,” Spradlin said. “But the picture that this story paints for me is one of people coming together as a team and maximizing their gifts to make a difference in New York City.”

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Spradlin was on hand to encourage people who work in many different health-related fields but who all work in some way with Northwest Colorado’s youngest residents to find new ways to improve the lives of children in Routt and Moffat counties.

People representing such agencies as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, First Impressions, Grand Futures and area colleges and hospitals gathered to celebrate the success of the Healthy Children Initiative 2001.

Yampa Valley Partners, a nonprofit organization that provides an annual profile of communities in Routt and Moffat counties, began the initiative last year to offer focused and extensive strategies to improve the lives of children in the counties.

Task forces were created to address prenatal care, early childhood care and education, immunizations, children’s health insurance, family involvement and community awareness of children’s issues.

Patsy Ford, a VNA public health team leader, headed the task force to improve immunization rates and county coverage rates.

Her group discovered early on that collaboration was key to success, Ford said.

“We’re only as good as what we do together,” she said. “Not what we say we’re going to do.”

Elisa Shackleton directed the task force on increasing family involvement and support for the well-being of children.

“So many parents and people in the community just do not know what is available to them to make these young people’s lives better,” said Shackleton, who works out of the Moffat County office of Colorado State University. “Together, we helped to shine the light on some of what is available.”

Ford and Shackleton are only two of the many people who helped to bring about positive change in the lives of children by uniting many different interests in one concerted effort, said Audrey Danner, executive director of Yampa Valley Partners.

“Working together often requires people to embrace new ideas,” Danner said. “Like those New York firemen, we must continue to put aside what bothers us about our differences and and work together for the greater good.”

The Yampa Valley Partners’ first report was released in 1997 as groundwork for additional indicators of communities’ performances.

The 1999 report provided social, economic and environmental indicators to encourage the development of healthier communities in Routt and Moffat counties, Danner said. Task forces met monthly to discuss ideas about how to best accomplish the goals of the Healthy Children Initiative 2001.