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Health Care and Social Policy Projects

The Institute's concern with the problems that face children and families in local communities has led us to translate theory and research into projects and demonstration programs in an effort to have an impact on social policy.

The Gifted in the Inner City Project

Gifted children constitute a precious resource that can help shape a brighter future for themselves and their community. The education of young gifted children, particularly in minority and educationally disadvantaged environments, continues to receive inadequate attention. Given the deleterious effects of poverty on the young gifted child, it is imperative to identify precocious children as early as possible and provide them with enrichment activities to prepare them for school.  This program serves preschool and early elementary school-aged children. It is an intervention program, the aim of which  is to facilitate the identification of gifted urban children and maintain their cognitive strengths. Recognizing the important role school and family play in the educational development of children, this project further provides teacher and parent training workshops in early childhood education.

Health Care Delivery Among the Poor: The Case for Incentives

The poor use health services less frequently than the non-poor, even when services are provided at no or reduced cost. One strategy for encouraging poor families to take greater advantage of available health care is to offer them incentives for doing so. Nationwide, there have been experiments offering cash payments for regularly attending prenatal care clinics, for vaccinating preschool children, and for compliance with various treatment regimens. Likewise, payments have been used to encourage adolescent mothers to postpone additional pregnancies. Do such programs work?  We have undertaken the first systematic review of these programs and find that incentives are a promising strategy for improving health care use among the poor.

The C.A.R.S. (Children Are Riding Safely) Safety Projects

The C.A.R.S. Safety Study

The primary cause of injury and death in young children is motor vehicle crashes. Car safety seats, when properly used, have been proven effective in reducing traffic fatalities. Despite mandatory restraint laws, use of car seats has been surprisingly low, especially in inner city areas. The C.A.R.S. project was designed to increase car seat use among toddlers in inner city areas by providing two services to the community: 1) provision of car seats, along with instruction on their proper use, and 2) education regarding the importance of seat belt and car seat use. Results showed that, when inner city families are given car seats for their toddlers, car seat use increases dramatically. This was the case regardless of whether education regarding the importance of seat belt and car seat use accompanied the car seat distribution. An increase in the use of seat belts for other children riding in the car also was found. Increases in the use of car seats and seat belts continued to be seen one year after families received car seats.

The Car Seat Brochure Study

Certain interventions have been proven effective in increasing car seat and seat belt use among inner city families.  Our C.A.R.S. Safety Study showed that giving car seats to poor families dramatically increased the use of car seats for toddlers and seat belts for other children riding in the car. These effects still were observed one year after car seats were distributed. In an attempt to reach a large number of inner city families in a cost effective manner, we  have designed a brochure geared toward a low literacy audience. This brochure has been distributed to families throughout Newark through their day care centers. The project will evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy on increasing car seat and seat belt use.

The Lead Education Evaluation Project

Parent education is an important element in preventing exposure of children to hazards in the environment. Education regarding lead poisoning prevention is conducted by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Education and Training Program of UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine on an ongoing basis. One means of delivery involves the recruitment of parents through day care centers in the greater Newark area. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of these education sessions in explaining to inner city parents the dangers to young children of lead exposure, alerting parents to possible sources of lead in the environment, and educating parents regarding behaviors in the home which could be changed in order to help prevent lead exposure.

The Childhood Aggression Mentor Project

This project aims to prevent aggressive behavior and promote adjustment in five- to eight-year-old children.  Adults are trained to teach the children problem-solving skills and self-control. They encourage the children to generate nonaggressive solutions to problem and conflict situations. The program provides an opportunity for children to develop  good relationships with  competent adults, to build self-esteem, and to improve their own abilities for coping.  Findings to date indicate that  mentoring services can reduce aggression, especially in young boys.