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Healthy and Ready to Learn Initiative

The Challenge

Education is the path out of poverty for millions of American children, but a health crisis in the classroom is standing in their way.

A child who's been awake all night with an asthma attack can't focus on algebra. A child who can't see the blackboard can't keep up in spelling. Untreated health problems like these are epidemic in low-income communities, keeping children from achieving their dreams.

The Healthy and Ready to Learn Initiative is designed to tackle health problems where kids feel their impact the most—in schools across the nation. We need to change the odds for disadvantaged kids to give every child a chance to succeed.

The Plan

Children's Health Fund is launching school-based pilot programs in New York City in Fall 2014 that will demonstrate what can be done with robust and systematic screening and management of health-related barriers to learning. Designed to last three to five years, the pilots will be rigorously evaluated all along the way. Specially trained health coordinators will follow evidenced-based protocols to connect children with the care and services they need. With our National Network, Children's Health Fund is also ideally positioned to address health barriers to learning in schools across the country.

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Phase 1

  • New York City Public Schools
    We are pleased to announce that our first pilot school program, launching at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, will be PS 49 in the South Bronx. This pilot program is generously sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover. Two additional pilot schools also will get underway this fall.
  • Across the Country
    Our National Network of mobile programs spans 17 states and the District of Columbia. Many of these programs work closely with schools—in fact, 62 percent of the sites they visit are schools—and have pioneered innovative and effective ways to bring care to students in the learning environment. We are expanding these efforts in the year ahead.

Meet The Team

To build the Healthy and Ready to Learn Initative, the Children's Health Fund senior management team has been expanded to include:

Dr. Charles Basch, Healthy and Ready to Learn Consultant

Dr. Charles Basch is out to break down the walls between education and health care. As Professor of Health and Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, he has spent years exploring the connection between student health and educational achievement and has come to see them as two sides of the same coin. Chuck, as his colleagues know him, has joined Children’s Health Fund to help design our new Healthy and Ready to Learn Initiative. Read More

Phoebe Browne, Healthy and Ready to Learn Director

Phoebe Browne brings an extensive background in community health, school health and public education to the program. Among other experiences, she has worked with New York Presbyterian's school-based health network and on joint initiatives of the Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Child Health and the Office of School Health in the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. Read More

In the News

Wall Street Journal Covers our "Crisis in the Classroom" Report

"Teachers know that if students can't see the whiteboard, they will have trouble learning," writes the Journal's Lisa Fleisher, covering the release of the Children's Health Fund report "Crisis in the Classroom: How Untreated Medical Problems Are Seen to Interfere With School Performance," which was based on research conducted in collaboration with the New York City Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the city's union of school principals. The article discusses the burden of untreated health care problems on city students, quoting both Children's Health Fund co-founder and president Irwin Redlener, MD, and New York City's head of school health, Roger Platt.

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Nicholas Kristof Highlights Impact of Undiagnosed Illnesses on Learning

The New York Times columnist tells the story of Johnny Wethee, a child who was born deaf in rural West Virginia. His hearing disability wasn't recognized until he was 18 months old. Now three, Johnny is bright, curious and healthy, but may face permanent deficits in his language development. Kristof quotes Children's Health Fund president and co-founder Irwin Redlener, MD on the harm done by health barriers to learning, and calls for interventions to ensure children like Johnny don't fall through the cracks.

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Video: Healthy and Ready to Learn

Teachers, school administrators, and our health care providers across the country agree: treatable illnesses like asthma and tooth decay are sabotaging children's success in school—especially in low-income communities. This video describes the problem and discusses strategies for ensuring children everywhere in America are healthy and ready to learn.

Video: Every Child a Chance

It's the middle of the night, and once again Brian is wracked with coughing and wheezing. His asthma attacks are keeping him up—and the lack of sleep keeps him from concentrating the next day in school. This dramatic video illustrates the challenges children face from untreated diseases, and shows how Children's Health Fund helps them become healthy and ready to learn.