In August, New York’s Medicaid agency kicked off an innovative “First 1,000 Days” initiative, focused on the first three years of a child’s life. The first 1,000 days of life present a crucial period of opportunity to support optimal development with lifelong consequences, as a child’s brain develops rapidly in the first three years.
This early period of a child’s life is important, not just for their physical health and development, but is also a critical period in terms of cognitive and emotional development. And interventions that help to ensure healthy development and reduce childhood adversity in the early years have been shown to contribute to better physical and mental health. By taking an intentional focus to the early days (and weeks, months and years!) of a child’s life, New York has the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our children, with benefits that continue into youth and adulthood.
Because 59 percent of all children age zero to three in New York State are covered by Medicaid, the Medicaid program can play an important role in ensuring strong outcomes for a large number of children. Also, since Medicaid is such an important payer of services, it has the capacity to drive the quality of how health care providers and others interact with children and their families.
The First 1,000 Days initiative is a collaborative effort, bringing together stakeholders, charged with developing a ten–point agenda to focus on enhancing access to services and improving outcomes for children on Medicaid in their first 1,000 days of life. I have been invited by New York’s Medicaid Director, Jason Helgerson, to help lead this initiative, together with Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Dr. Jeff Kaczorowski from The Children’s Agenda, with a fantastic team – Chad Shearer and Suzanne Brundage – from the United Hospital Fund, and an impressive group of passionate and smart work group participants. A link to materials from our first meeting is here.
New York State is leading the way with this work and our friends in other states are watching. While some policymakers in Washington, DC are focused on simply cutting funds from health coverage for people in need, we in New York are working to build systems that generate better outcomes and save money in the long- and short-term.
This initiative is an exciting opportunity for the State to build connections among disparate systems to holistically support families with young children. I wholeheartedly look forward to working with our state and community partners on innovations for a strong start for all NY children.
President & CEO