Gov. Ned Lamont has emphasized the importance of workforce development for Connecticut’s future and has recently called for a summit with business leaders and educators from public and private colleges to develop a workforce development plan.

Such plans have been successfully implemented in other states with the recognition that tomorrow’s workforce begins with today’s children.  Vermont‘s former governor, Peter Shumlin, unveiled the Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan in 2014 as the keystone for his ambitious workforce development agenda.

Given the governor’s avowed interest in workforce development and the link between children’s health, development, and well-being and academic and occupational success, we encourage him to consider building Connecticut’s workforce through support of the State’s Health Enhancement Community initiative.

The State of Connecticut’s Population Health Council recently released the Connecticut State Innovation Model Health Enhancement Community (HEC) Framework, which focuses on improving community health and health equity. The HEC initiative has four ambitious but achievable goals, including making Connecticut the best state for children to grow up and achieving health equity.  The Council recommends that the HEC initiative focus on improving child well-being in Connecticut, pre-birth to age 8 years, and assuring all children are in safe, stable, and nurturing environments.

The State’s HEC strategy, which is jointly implemented by the Office of Health Strategy and the Department of Public Health, has strong potential for success if endorsed and supported by state leadership. By prioritizing child health services transformation and aligned community supports, Connecticut is positioned to be a national role model for promoting children’s optimal health, development, and well-being.  Benefits will include attracting and maintaining a vibrant population of families with young children and creating a robust, capable, and productive workforce to advance the State’s economic goals.

Given our many years of leadership to not-for-profit organizations, and being mindful of the state’s daunting budget challenges, we clearly understand the need to address the budget gap and the reality of “no margin, no mission.”   However, our work with many states around the nation has identified a variety of funding strategies that enable states to support mission-driven work at modest expense and even with return-on-investment.

States employ such strategies as minimizing redundancy and blending multiple agencies’ administrative and financial resources, applying revenues from special funding sources, using available and appropriate federal grant dollars, and securing investments from foundations and socially-minded donors through such vehicles as “pay for success” contracting.  State support for the HEC model does not necessarily demand unrealistic or unavailable funding. Innovative and creative financing is not only possible, but can potentially yield cost savings.

Workforce development is, as noted by the governor, a critical priority for Connecticut.  The State’s HEC initiative, with its focus on promoting children’s optimal well-being, is key to ensuring the workforce of the future.  We urge state leadership to prioritize children’s well-being as a key workforce development strategy and develop funding strategies for the HEC initiative to offset expenses and achieve both margin and mission.

Paul Dworkin  is Executive Vice President for Community Child Health, Connecticut Children’s and Profession of Pediatrics, UCONN School of Medicine.  Lisa Honigfeld  is Vice President for Health Initiatives, Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut

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