I moved to Charleston, WV in 2004 to work as the Program Manager of the West Virginia Asthma Coalition. One of our first projects was to advocate for the right of public school students to carry their albuterol inhalers in school. We won! But it took some time, and a lot of discussions with stakeholders with different perspectives who, as I came to realize, all wanted the same thing– safe, healthy students.
That was about 15 years ago. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to participate in lots of little victories like this one. I’ve come to know hundreds of great people in communities around the state who work together to look out for the most vulnerable kids. I sit on several boards and coalitions that work to do the same. You’d think, with so many big groups and little groups, we wouldn’t need another.
But we do. In fact, that’s exactly why we do.
Many committed West Virginians work to provide direct services, raise funding for direct services, or volunteer for groups that provide them. We create coalitions that work to oversee implementation of these programs and services. Different systems have different committees and groups– health care has its organizations, public education has its organizations, and so on.
What we’re not doing is uniting in our efforts to identify and advocate for policy reforms to address the challenges that our children face, and that we’re facing when trying to help them.
Where, for example, can you go online to find centralized data on the health disparities affecting West Virginia’s kids? What are the most pressing needs? Who is prioritizing how to address them? Where’s our strategic plan for action? Who are our legislative champions? When was the last time you heard kids’ health issues discussed at the state legislature?
Think Kids plans to fill this gap — bring together the voices of those providing programs and services and listen to their challenges, articulate them, then move policy forward that will solve them.
Together, with stakeholders from around the state, we can wield a mighty voice to push meaningful change forward, translating into generations of healthy kids.