Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds provides books to low-income families at pediatrician visits

PROVIDENCE – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Reach Out and Read RI have expanded the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative to reach more children at different ages in selected medical practices across the state, BCBSRI reported in a recent statement. The program builds on RORRI’s school-readiness program by adding a healthy eating and active lifestyle component to developmentally-appropriate books provided to local children during well-child visits.

“As experts on childhood health, our pediatricians regularly talk with families about the importance of healthy eating and active lifestyles, and these related children’s books will serve as guidance for every parent in building healthy habits for their kids,” Carolyn Belisle, BCBSRI managing director of community relations, said in the statement. “Pediatricians have shared with us that Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds enables them to clearly address the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to families and their children.”

The program’s first year focused on reaching the 2-year-old population, while the expanded partnership will include 5-year-olds and focuses on reaching underserved children in the core cities of Pawtucket, Providence and Warwick. The expanded partnership plans to distribute nearly 3,000 books at more than 30 sites; a book will be provided at every 2-year-old’s well-child checkup in Pawtucket and at new Warwick sites, and at every 5-year-old’s well-child visit at Community Healthcare Centers statewide.

In the program’s first year, each child reached through this collaboration received a copy of “Munch! Crunch! Snacks and Lunch” by Anna W. Bardaus; with the expanded partnership, children will receive a copy of “Good for You and Me” by Mercer Mayer. Both books teach and reinforce healthy habits. Parents will also receive evidence-based advice about creating routines to lay a foundation for their children’s lifelong healthy habits.

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“Our goal is to reinforce a parent’s role as the first and most important teacher, and give parents the tools and techniques to help their children succeed. We do this by building on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early literacy skills in [very young] children,” Susanna Beckwith, executive director of RORRI, said in the statement. “Our mission is to provide young children with a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. This mission is guided by the vision that one day all children will enter kindergarten with highly-engaged parents, performing at grade level and prepared to excel.”

Nancy Kirsch is a PBN contributing writer.