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Investing in the Early Development of our Future Leaders

By Melissa Biediger | August 30, 2018 | Community Health

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The early years of childhood can be the most influential years in a person’s life. This is the time where children first begin to observe the world around them, build relationships and understand emotion. A child’s quality of life influences their ability to succeed as adults. Investing in resources for young North Carolinians to build a foundation of good health is vital to their well-being and good for our state.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Every day, children face significant adversity. This is influenced by a variety of risk factors including poverty, caregiver mental illness, child maltreatment, single parent and low maternal education. Studies show that young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences by the age of three face a 76 percent likelihood of having one or more delays in their language, emotional or brain development. Adverse situations and social determinants of health are felt right at home here in Durham – a city and surrounding area with a 26 percent child poverty rate.

To help overcome these barriers and promote early childhood development, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC (Blue Cross NC) is investing in SAFEchild, EDCI and Made in Durham. These investments are part of our $50 million commitment toward community health initiatives.

Each of these organizations serves a unique purpose to increase abuse awareness, quality of education and family support programs in their service area.


For over 25 years, SAFEchild has been working to eliminate child abuse in Wake County. Its Funny Tummy Feelings program is a school-based program and has historically been presented each year in 50 Wake County Elementary schools. Through these efforts, SAFEchild has reached more than 5,000 first grade students. The program helps protect children from sexual and physical abuse along with other situations that pose harm to children’s well-being and healthy development. Since 90 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and trusts, SAFEchild knows the value in empowering children to speak up and seek help if abuse is experienced.

With over 7,000 investigated reports of child abuse and neglect in Wake County each year, SAFEchild is eager to expand the Funny Tummy Feelings program to all first-grade students in 50 schools to all first-grade students in 175 schools over the next three years. This is exactly what our investment will help do. Through this expansion, SAFEChild will bring the program to 10,000 more students in Wake County.


East Durham Children’s Initiative, EDCI, has been serving Durham since 2011. It provides programs and services for low-income children and families living in distress. Working with more than 40 partner agencies, EDCI offers a comprehensive pipeline of services extending from birth through high school that include a bilingual preschool, home visiting programs, out-of-school learning programs, health and nutrition initiatives, and parent education and support. Recent achievements have been to improve early literacy levels, prevent summer learning loss and reduce food insecurity. Since inception, EDCI programs have touched over 1,600 children and 900 families.

The Blue Cross NC funding will provide early childhood services to 350 low-income infants and children adjacent to the current service area.

Made in Durham

Made in Durham’s primary goal is to partner with organizations to create an effective Cradle-to-Career system. This system works to prioritize early education and promote career development initiatives. Ultimately, breaking the generational cycle of poverty and social determinants of health like education and housing. Since establishment four years ago, Made in Durham has helped ensure all Durham youth graduate from high school, earn a postsecondary credential and begin a financially supporting career by the age of 25.

With the number of available jobs in Durham increasing by 27.9 percent, Made in Durham sees the opportunity to expand its program to reach more students in the county. By reaching kids early, Made in Durham can help reduce the risk of students falling behind in school or dropping out entirely. With the support of our investment, Made in Durham will be able to scale and strengthen its work for individuals age 14-24 by funding infrastructure improvements and the exploration of a Durham-wide Cradle-to-Career system.

Our President and CEO, Patrick Conway, says that “An investment in early childhood development in an investment in the future of North Carolina.” We’re excited to partner with these great organizations to build a healthier North Carolina for our children, our state and our future.