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Getting children in West Harlem healthy and ready to learn

Project time period


16 million children in the US live in poverty, and these children are the most vulnerable when it comes to diagnosing and following up health-related barriers to learning. Easily treatable health issues become a big problem for many of these children; a child who’s been awake all night with an asthma attack can’t focus on math, a child who can’t see the blackboard can’t keep up in spelling.

Untreated health problems like these are ultimately keeping children in low-income communities from achieving their dreams. To address this, the H&M Foundation is, together with the Children’s Health Fund, supporting an innovative school-based program in New York, designed to get children healthy and ready to learn.

In the first phase of the project the Healthy and Ready to Learn (HRL) Initiative was designed to reach best practices for addressing health barriers that risk slowing down the ability to learn. During the coming three years, in phase 2 of the project, the Children’s Health Fund will continue to support the HRL model and scale it up to more public schools in New York City while also preparing the model to be tested and scaled nationally.

The Healthy and Ready to Learn Model

The HRL model brings healthcare and education professionals together with parents to implement hands-on solutions. Evidence has shown that treating health conditions like asthma, poor vision, hearing impairments, hunger and anemia, dental pain, and behavioral issues can overall improve children’s educational progress and well-being. Hence, interventions will be developed, addressing these health conditions with the goal to reach more students and families. Children will be screened for health-related barriers to learning and then be connected with the care they need. The project will also work on teacher and parent engagement to give the adults around the children the tools they need to help address these health-related learning barriers.

Focus on advocacy

During phase 2 more focus will also be put on advocating at the city, state and national level for policies that mitigate the effects of health barriers to learning. The hope is to prove that by addressing health-related barriers to learning in a holistic way with all stakeholders involved; health care, students, parents and schools, the attendance and ultimately the academic improvement among these children can be achieved.

Project Specifics

  • Period: 20172021
  • Countries: United States
  • Focus Areas: Education
  • Partners: Children's Health Fund

Expected Outcomes

  • 1,300 students, their parents, and school staff in NYC will benefit from the direct implementation of the Healthy and Ready to Learn model.
  • 3 national strategic partnerships will be made to further the dissemination and adoption of Healthy and Ready to Learn practices within public schools across the United States.
  • 50+ meetings with senators and congressional representatives will be held annually to advocate for policies that recognize and mitigate the effects of health barriers to learning.