STRONG Kids, which stands for Striving Toward Resiliency and Opportunities for the Next Generation, is a new initiative that brings together and assists regional organizations that support children.

In a partnership announced today during a forum at Bristol Motor Speedway among the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children's Charities, Ballad Health and Niswonger Children's Hospital, STRONG Kids will enable these groups to share ideas and best practices that will help children in the area reach their potential through expanded opportunities in health, education and economic vitality. The partnership is designed to bring a new level of support to these organizations that are on the front lines serving children.

A key part of STRONG Kids is a quarterly forum to share knowledge on important topics like current regional efforts, best practices and ways to align resources among different organizations in order to have the biggest impact. In addition to introducing the STRONG Kids program, the forum also provided technical assistance, training and best practices for children's organizations in attendance.

"Speedway Children's Charities, Ballad Health and Niswonger Children's Hospital are longtime advocates for children, so this is a great first step for us to come together to support these agencies that focus on helping kids in need in our communities," said Claudia H. Byrd, executive director of SCC Bristol. "Our organizations are working together to help children become healthy, happy and successful. The STRONG Kids initiative binds our organizations together with the goal to make life better for the region's children."

Today's forum featured Dr. Karen Schetzina of East Tennessee State University Physicians, who spoke on childhood trauma and resiliency, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Topics to be addressed at future forums include substance abuse, exercise and nutrition.

Tony Keck, executive vice president of system innovation and chief population health officer of Ballad Health, said the goal of STRONG Kids aligns perfectly with Ballad Health's mission.
"We were created as a health improvement organization," Keck said, "and we've made commitments to help tackle some of our region's most important health challenges. One of the most important ways to do that is by investing early in the well-being of our children. If we can give our kids a stronger start, it means a better future for them and for our whole region."

Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City is involved in numerous initiatives to improve the health of children, ranging from newborn sleep safety to elementary-age literacy programs.

"There's a lot of great effort being done by organizations around the region," said Lisa Carter, CEO of the children's hospital, "and STRONG Kids brings us together to share what we're each doing, what's working and how we can combine resources.

"At Niswonger Children's Hospital, we care for the kids who come to our facility, but it's also important to enable them to live healthy lives so they don't have to be in the hospital in the first place. STRONG Kids allows us to go outside the walls of the hospital and work with others to do that."

STRONG Kids is a complement to the region's recently announced Accountable Care Community (ACC), which is a collaboration of more than 200 organizations in the region with a common goal providing the children of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia the best chance to succeed in life by focusing on their health, education and economic opportunity. One of the key aspects of the ACC is building strong children and families. Healthy Kingsport, Ballad Health and United Way of Southwest Virginia are lead organizations for the Accountable Care Community effort.

Any organizations that support children in our region are encouraged to learn more about STRONG Kids. For more information, contact Paula Masters at [email protected].