United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Receives $200,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant For Kindergarten Readiness Assessments In Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) has been awarded a Roadmaps to Health Community Grant of $200,000 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve kindergarten readiness rates in Pennsylvania. The grant will support a two-year education and advocacy campaign, co-directed by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and in partnership with a coalition of local education and community partners, to build broad support among parents, school superintendents and boards, key business leaders, state agencies and elected officials to adopt and implement common kindergarten readiness assessments across the early childhood and K-12 education sectors.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded Roadmaps to Health Community Grants to 18 coalitions across the United States to improve the health of those communities. These alliances aim to create healthier places to live, learn, work, and play. In its second year, the Roadmaps to Health grants now support a total of 30 state and local coalitions made up of leaders from government, business, education, health care, public health, and community organizations.

Adopting uniform kindergarten readiness assessments will have a far-reaching impact on education across the region and the commonwealth and is critical to advancing United Way and the Economy League's work to improve education and talent development outcomes as part of the Economy League's World Class Greater Philadelphia 15-year strategic vision for the region.  First and foremost, it will provide a common measure to assess whether children have developed the skills they need in order to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. These assessments can also be used to evaluate early childcare center performance, establish improvement metrics, and align early childhood and elementary school curricula.

"Early childhood education is a cornerstone of our Impact agenda because for millions of children in our region, education is the greatest economic equalizer they will ever know," says Jill Michal, UWGPSNJ President and CEO. "The path to a lifetime of success begins with early learning — well before a student's first day of kindergarten — but only one in three children in Pennsylvania experiences high quality early childhood education."

"Roadmaps to Health grantees are impressive examples of leaders from multiple sectors—including public health, health care, education, faith and family organizations—working together to improve health. We hope to see more communities learning from these Roadmaps collaborations and using the County Health Rankings to create a healthier, better life for families," said James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of RWJF's Health Group.

"There is a demonstrable difference in children who have had a quality early learning experience and those who have not – and we want to close that gap," says Michal. " By better informing parents of the lifelong impact this experience can have, we will not only be empowering them to make the best decision for their children, but effectively increasing the demand for improved options community-, region- and state-wide."

In addition to the Economy League, project collaborators at the Public Health Management Corporation, Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, as well as William Penn Foundation and PNC, have also committed to supporting this effort. The group was among 18 grantees selected from more than 400 applicants. This year's grantees will join 12 existing grantees to build consensus and implement policy and systems changes that address the factors we know influence how healthy people are and how long they live.

The Roadmaps to Health Community Grants are a major component of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program— www.countyhealthrankings.org —a collaboration of RWJF and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The program promotes solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities by focusing on specific factors that affect health, such as education, employment, social support, and community safety. The grants will be managed by Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization.

About United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, serving communities in Pennsylvania's Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, and New Jersey's Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Cumberland counties, is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people's lives. United Way engages the community to identify the underlying causes of the most significant local issues, develops strategies and pulls together financial and human resources to address them, and measures the results. United Way is advancing the common good in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey by positively impacting the lives of people throughout the region in the areas of education, income, and health.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter (@RWJF) and Facebook (facebook.com/RobertWoodJohnsonFoundation).

About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to quality affordable health care for all. Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to improve the health of communities and to transform the health care system so it serves everyone. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Read or comment on our blog at http://blog.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter (@healthpolicyhub).

SOURCE United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey




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