The Data Dialogue: Early Childhood Needs in Our Community

December 10, 2019 | United Way Team

Learn more about the importance of identifying what is happening to young children in our community.

Assessing the needs of children in our community, and more specifically children in vulnerable situations, is key to ending the cycle of poverty. Research indicates the brain develops more in the first 2,000 days of life than any other time in a life. Investing in strategies that support young children leads to improved education, employment, and health as they grow older. [1]

That’s why United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) and Linn County Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) collaborated over 18 months to complete an Early Childhood Needs Assessment and Community Plan. The purpose of this report is to get a more comprehensive understanding of what is happening to young children and their families in our community. This report is broken into three sections based on each ECI core service: Child & Maternal Health, Early Care & Education, Family Support & Stability. The next three Data Dialogue blogs will provide an overview of each section, starting with Child & Maternal Health.

Physical Health

The physical health of mothers and babies in Linn County is better than average in Iowa and the United States. [2]


Linn County


United States

Mothers received prenatal care in the first trimester




Infants born with low birth weight




Teen births/1,000 females (15-19)




Mental Health

New babies can bring a range of emotions to families. In Linn County:

  • 41% of single mothers report experiencing 25-30 days of poor mental health in a given month, more than single fathers at 13%. [3]
  • 1 in 11 infants are impacted by their mother’s depression. This means they will feel the effects of their mother’s depression within the first year of life. [4]

What is going well for young children in our community?

  • Most children have health care insurance.
  • Access to a strong network of child and maternal health care providers.
  • Awareness of the social determinants of health.
  • Care coordination models are in place in the community.
  • Greater emphasis on developmental surveillance at a child’s medical home.

What are challenges young children are facing today?

  • Disparities in health care outcomes; preventable differences in health and health care options between populations.
  • Increased resources to serve limited English proficiency (LEP) families are needed.
  • Few dentists in the area accept Medicaid clients.
  • Limited options for free pre-kindergarten hearing screens.
  • Food insecurity remains a concern.
  • A more comprehensive mental health system is needed.

What strategies are being put in place to address the challenges and build on the strengths found in this report?

  • Promote the importance of preventative early childhood health screens.
  • Ensure accessible and culturally responsive child and maternal health services.
  • Increase access to oral health services for children under age three.
  • Support early identification of maternal mental health and child behavioral concerns.
  • Promote comprehensive care coordination models.

If you would like to learn more about the strengths our community possesses, the challenges it faces, and the strategies to create change, please view the Early Childhood Needs Assessment executive summary.

[1] Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. 2019.

[2] Linn County Public Health. The Health of Linn County: A county-wide assessment of health status & risks. 01.2018

[3] Iowa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). 2016

[4] Association of Maternal & Child Health Program Innovation Station. 12.20.2016