For many families across the country, August is the month of “back to school.” For us in the health advocacy world, it is commonly the month that we focus on health care program enrollment. During this month, we highlight tools that help schools play a role in reminding families of opportunities to enroll their children in Medicaid and CHIP. For parents, it is an opportunity to remind them of the upcoming enrollment period for marketplaces if they are not eligible for Medicaid coverage — stressing to them the importance of their own health and wellness in their role as caregivers.

Yet amidst the backdrop of the tragic events in Charlottesville, parents and educators are thinking about their children’s safety, mental health and preparedness in confronting racism. For communities of color, racism is a top health concern among parents because it can be a cause long-term health challenges for children. The current news cycles only increase anxiety and fear for children of color and as a result, parents and educators are identifying ways to talk about the rise in racist actions across our country. As a health care advocacy organization who makes health equity a core component of our work, we know that racism in all its forms has relegated people of color to living in unhealthy communities with poorer access to high quality health. As health advocates, we must take action by looking across sectors and identifying partners that we can support in tackling institutional and structural racism.

So as we think about supporting families and caregivers as children head back to school, we must amplify the increasing number of tools developed to support schools, staff and community partners in addressing racism and infusing anti-racist practices into all aspects of where we work, pray and play. In the same vein, health advocates must make ourselves available to community partners as resources to ensure children have access to needed health care coverage and mental health services.

Some notable tools that health and education advocates should consider include:

  • There is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times: This toolkit put together by the National Council of Teachers of English was developed by their Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. The toolkit supports teachers in explicitly discussing the events in Charlottesville and advancing an anti-racism frame in their classrooms. It includes a collection of tools developed in the wake of last week’s events.
    • A compilation of Charlottesville-specific materials is aggregated on Share My Lesson powered by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and can be found here: #CharlottesvilleCurriculum
    • More broadly, the work by Standing Up Against Hate. Teaching Tolerance Tools provides a set of classroom tools, professional development webinars and community engagement strategies for educators.

Let’s stand together and get to work.