KidWorks health assessments keep students learning and thriving


If you happen to be a preschooler at KidWorks, the last thing you need is a toothache when you’re trying to learn your ABCs, the colors of the rainbow and how to properly draw a rectangle. 

In central Santa Ana, 9.5% of children are without health insurance, which is significantly higher compared to other cities in Orange County.  Not only can undetected health issues lead to greater health challenges but also higher absenteeism from school. 

That’s why health assessments are one of the key ways we keep our youngest students on track for academic success.

“At the start of every yearly preschool session we do evaluations that cover dental, vision, body mass index, and social/emotional/developmental milestones,” says Idalia Galdamez, Preschool Director.  “The screenings are at no cost to the families.”

Should an issue be detected—and that’s not unusual since many of the families we serve often cannot afford health care because of low incomes—KidWorks’ team directs the parents to low-cost or no-cost agencies who can help.

“We are with our students for three hours each school day, so we’re in an ideal position to spot possible medical, emotional or developmental issues,” says Minda Barrera-Vargas, a KidWorks preschool teacher who is deeply involved in the assessments, which include 48 preschool students yearly.  Early intervention of health

“We are very grateful to partners who make care possible for our youngsters,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, KidWorks’ Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “These wonderful organizations include Child Guidance Center, Inc., CHOC Hospital, Healthy Smiles 4 Kids of Orange County and the University Eye Center at Ketchum Health.”

In addition to the assessments and referrals, KidWorks also helps the parents of our preschoolers develop the skills to make sure their youngsters thrive.  

“Our informational workshops give parents guidance about nutrition, physical fitness, dental hygiene, vision, brain development and even hand-washing,” Idalia says.  “We are so grateful to Sonia Rios-Guzman for leading these workshops, and also for bringing in outside experts who provide additional insights.”  

“We are always excited when we see a young preschooler who may not be adequately brushing his or her teeth who then does so consistently after being taught how and provided a toothbrush all their own,” Minda says.

Idalia adds that she has also seen students who at first might seem to be struggling with learning the letters of the alphabet to then start to memorize their ABCs when a vision issue is diagnosed and eyeglasses provided at low or no cost. 

“Success in preschool really sets the stage for success in all the school grades to follow,” Idalia says.  “When a five-year-old is healthy, the odds go way up for sustained academic results far beyond our preschool classroom.”    

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer