Optima Health partners with Open a Book to encourage children to read

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— Virginia-based Optima Health is bringing its reading program, including a popular puppet performance, to the Hampton Roads region. By the end of the year, the performances will reach every elementary school in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

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 health care.

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, as well as puppet performances that emphasize the joy of reading and provide a book for every child in attendance to take home.

Traci Massie, Director 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.”

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:

  • January 23, 9:30 a.m. Lindenwood Elementary School performance, Norfolk, Virginia.
  • January 24, 10 a.m. Churchland Primary & Intermediate School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • January 25, 9:30 a.m. Lakeview Elementary School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 4, 9 a.m. Douglass Park Elementary School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 4, 1:30 p.m. Simonsdale Elementary School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 5, 9:30 a.m. Victory Elementary School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 5, 1:30 p.m. Hodges Manor Elementary School performance, Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 6, 1:30 p.m. Brighton Elementary School performance (at Norcom High School), Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • February 8, 10 a.m. Sewells Point Elementary School performance, Norfolk, Virginia.
  • February 19, 8 a.m. Francis Asbury Elementary School performance, Hampton, Virginia.

All performances are for enrolled students only.

Dr. Thomas Lundquist, Chief Medical Officer at Optima Health, provided a physician’s perspective, saying, “Reading together is a great way to help your child grow socially and emotionally. Plus, reading can improve their vocabulary, grow their self-confidence and broaden their imagination.”

This Optima Health reading program joins other services that Optima Health offers as part of their 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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