Touching evening: PBS film Raising of America, panel discussion highlights local need for early intervention

First Person ImageDo you know that in six out of 10 households with young children in King County both parents are working parents? Nonetheless, one in six young children here live in poverty.

I had the privilege of being on a planning committee for a recent evening–an advance screening of a new PBS series, The Raising of America, followed by a panel discussion of expert local leaders.

We wanted to tie local data, like the facts above, with the larger systems Raising of Americaissue at play in the United States. Public Health, the Executive’s Office, and Childcare Resources co-hosted the event.

Many of you may have seen California Newsreel’s four-hour PBS series, UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick, a fantastic series that explores the root causes of our alarming class and racial inequities in health.  The Raising of America project grew from the Unnatural Causes  and features the social ecology that structures opportunities for healthy child development and impels a sense of urgent changes that could make a nurturing childhood ecology the birthright of every child in America.  The Raising of America makes that claim that investing in children is the most prudent investment any nation can make.

The planning committee, including myself, was very moved and inspired by the video. We tried to plan an evening that would reach many community members and local leaders, would touch everyone’s heart and have our audience leave inspired to support changes that will benefit children.

On November 26, over 175 attendees gathered for the event.

King County Executive Dow Constantine opened the evening with brief remarks about the importance of investing in kids early in their lives.

After the film, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County Patty Hayes facilitated a panel discussion with representatives from health care, family advocacy, education, and business. The panelists were provocative, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and inspiring.

The panelists were

  • Ben Danielson, MD, Medical Director, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic;
  • Ginger Kwan, Executive Director, Open Doors for Multicultural Families;
  • Steve Leahy, Washington Director, ReadyNation; and
  • Mary Alice Heuschel, PhD, Deputy Director, U.S. Program, College Ready, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The panel discussion included a balance of perspectives, from health care provider to family advocate to education professional to business leader. Panelists pointed to policy decisions that will make a difference for families. Other panelists brought the message home with descriptions of real families’ experiences and a call to involve community members in development of policies. They spoke of what in the film touched their own hearts and inspired them to continue their work.

My favorite part of the evening was when Dr. Ben Danielson challenged the audience, saying he believes we all have a responsibility to inform all institutional and policy decisions with the following questions: “Is this good for kids? Will this decision remedy racial and economic inequities or will it worsen them?”

Executive Constantine provided closing remarks in which he outlined his new initiative Best Starts for Kids, a levy that would focus on early intervention and prevention so all kids can thrive.  Best Starts for Kids is a natural outgrowth of this work. I encourage you all to read more about it.

The full PBS series will air this spring. Public Health will purchases copies of the dvd for loan at that time. If you to host a screening and community conversation, please contact

For more information about the film series:

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I am on the communications team at Public Health - Seattle & King County. This account is for outreach by the health department.