WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Molina Healthcare, a national health care organization, and First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational resources to low-income communities, today announced a partnership that will advance social and emotional wellness for children in need — an area identified by First Book's membership of educators and program leaders as a top health education priority, exceeding the need to address nutrition, positive body image, and even substance abuse. The "Healthy Mind, Healthy Body" initiative is a comprehensive effort to support educators serving kids in need with new resources focused on social and emotional development in young children. The resources were developed with the support of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a nonprofit organization committed to integrating evidence-based social and emotional learning into all grade levels.
The initiative was informed by original research conducted by First Book in December of last year. The First Book-Molina Health Needs Assessment gathered input from more than 2,100 First Book members, who exclusively serve low-income communities, to identify the most significant barriers to health and wellness faced by their students. The results revealed that educators saw mental health, or a combination of mental and physical health, as an obstacle to academic success by nearly 90 percent of respondents. Physical health alone was cited as the top health issue by just 13 percent. Family-friendly information on managing feelings and emotions, to be used in the classroom or program as well as shared with parents, was named as the most sought-after resource. Child development and education experts increasingly cite social and emotional learning (SEL) as foundational for cognitive development and learning. CASEL identifies five key SEL core competencies: Self-Management, consisting of managing emotions and behaviors; Self-Awareness, recognizing ones strengths and limitations; Responsible Decision-Making, making constructive choices about personal and social behavior; Relationship Skills, forming positive relationships, working in teams and dealing effectively with conflict; and Social Awareness, showing understanding and empathy for others.