Watch Me Grow Washington: Optimizing Equitable Access to Childhood Health and Safety Information Across Washington State

Sherry Carlson, MPH, MCHES1, Allegra Condiotty, MPH2, Samantha Johnson, MS2 and Angelica Esquivel Lopez, .2, (1)WA State Dept of Health, Tumwater, WA, (2)Health Promotion and Education, Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater, WA

Background: The Watch Me Grow Washington (WMGW) program is a critical tool used to disseminate important health and safety related content in a timely and equitably way to families/households across Washington State. Throughout the pandemic, these mailings were used to ensure important COVID-19 information was reaching priority populations that may not otherwise receive these messages through other channels.

Program background: For over 25 years Watch Me Grow Washington (WMGW) program has disseminated health and safety information to all families with children ages 0-6 throughout Washington state via paper mailings. Mailings are offered in both English and Spanish, following language access and health literacy principles. This program is unique to Washington state and successfully sends out approximately 1.5 million mailings each year.

Each WMGW mailing includes evidence-based information in several key child health areas, including the timing of well-child doctor visits, growth and development, vaccines, nutrition and physical activity, oral health, safety, school readiness, environmental health, and family support and routines. Mailings are synced with the American Academy of Pediatrics well-child visit schedule. Each mailing is timed to arrive in the mail prior to the time of a child’s next anticipated well-child visit.

The model allows for partner organizations to include printed materials on a variety of health and safety topics relative to the age group of the child during that mailing cycle. During the pandemic, this program was utilized to incorporate COVID-19 messaging relevant to the current phase of the pandemic and vaccine eligibility guidelines based on the child’s age. Clinics and other facilities across the state are also able to utilize WMGW materials and provide them for their patients.

Evaluation Methods and Results:

In the most recent comprehensive evaluation, parents and caregivers indicated the following about the WMGW program:

  • 96 percent of parents reported reading the materials.
  • 93 percent of parents reported learning from these materials.
  • 82 percent of parents indicated materials reinforced their parenting decisions.

Conclusions: While there are many channels to message health and safety information, paper mailings remain a reputable way to equitably provide the up-to-date pertinent childhood health and safety messaging to families regardless of access to other channels. The model is highly valued by parents and caregivers, and it allows health and safety messages to be tailored and individualized to specific age groups with a far reach within Washington state. Watch Me Grow Washington has also implemented electronic mail to further expand messaging channels to parents across the state.

Implications for research and/or practice:

The WMGW program continues to equitably disseminate evidence-based childhood health and safety information to priority populations statewide. Continued best practice includes annual material review of all mailing materials and program evaluation and monitoring. Further research is warranted to support a comprehensive review of the return on investment of the WMGW program.