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Optima Health, Sentara

Optima Health Brings Reading Program to Our Area

Provided by Optima Health

Optima Health is bringing its reading program to Northern Virginia. The Optima Health reading program offers a variety of literacy services for low-income children and adults, recognizing the positive effect that reading has on lifelong health and well-being. Literacy plays a large role in improving the social determinants of health, which include financial stability, food security, education, housing, transportation, and access to quality healthcare.

The Optima Health Reading Program

The Optima Health reading program includes sponsorship of student tutoring and scholarships, payment for Graduate Education Development (GED), screening for developmental delays and connecting members with resources, participation in back-to-school events, and placing children’s books in the home of every member household. It also includes puppet performances that emphasize the joy of reading and provide a book for every child in attendance to take home.

Megan Philpotts Padden, Vice President of Government Programs at Optima Health, said, “Addressing the holistic well-being of our Medicaid members by targeting social determinants of health moves us closer to the heart of heath care. We’re Virginians caring for Virginians. So, we understand how the Optima Health reading program meets a real need to instill the love of reading and improve health outcomes in low-income families through literacy. Our puppet performances are perhaps the most visible aspect of the Optima Health reading program—but truly they’re just one important part of our multifactorial effort to support all our members, at any age.”

Puppet Programs

The puppet program, which features Rainbow Puppet Productions, a well-established children’s theater company, has been developed just for Optima Health, a service of Sentara Healthcare.

Through these shows, Optima Health will reach more than 38,000 children in 100 different locations such as public schools, public libraries, and community events in lower-income areas throughout Virginia over the coming months.

Locally, upcoming puppet programs include:

  • Dec, 10, 9:30 a. m. Featherstone Elementary School performance, Woodbridge. Enrolled students only.
  • Dec. 10, 2:00 p. m. Occoquan School performance, Woodbridge. Enrolled students only.
  • Dec. 11, 9:30 a. m. and 2:15 p. m. Hayden Elementary School performances, Manassas. Enrolled students only.
  • Dec. 11, 6:30 p. m. Potomac Community Library, 2201 Opitz Boulevard, Woodbridge. Free and open to the public.

Dr. Benedict Sales, a family practice physician at Sentara Family Medicine Physicians, provided a physician’s perspective, saying, “Reading with children is a great way to help them grow socially and emotionally, plus it can improve their vocabulary, increase self-confidence, and broaden their imagination. When adults read with children, the neurons in children’s brains connect during the interaction—in a way that just doesn’t happen during passive activities like watching television. Numerous studies show a connection between brain development and time spent with books, even for infants.”

Other Optima Services

This Optima Health reading program joins other services that are part of Optima Health’s larger commitment to infant and early childhood health called ZERO TO THREE®:

  • Text4Baby provides health information via text message to pregnant women.
  • The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership promotes social and emotional development.
  • Home Visiting – Ages & Stages Questionnaire® screens the development of children from 1 year to 66 months.

Additionally, Optima Health recognizes that adverse childhood experiences have wide-reaching health and social consequences, and works to prevent them from occurring by addressing social determinants of health and monitoring child welfare when interacting with members.

Optima Health encourages assessment of adverse childhood experiences in the primary care setting as a predictor of behavioral and physical health conditions, and equips parents with information on good parenting practices.

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