(EASTERN CT) – Two long-standing health partners in eastern Connecticut have teamed up to create “Norm the COVID-19 Community Watch Dog” to help children pre-K through 5th grade develop and maintain healthy habits and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Generations Family Health Center, a non-profit Federally Qualified Community Health Center serving eastern Connecticut since 1984, and the Northeast District Department of Health (NDDH), one of the longest-serving public health districts in the state, wanted to provide children with a best friend who could tag along with them to school and wherever they go…and remind them to adopt healthy habits to stay as safe as possible from COVID-19.
According to NDDH Education and Communications Coordinator Linda Colangelo, “We wanted to find an entertaining, engaging way to remind everyone to keep up the healthy habits they learned throughout the pandemic: wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands. We believe children of all ages will connect with Norm, the official ‘maskot’ of our prevention campaign.”
Generations and NDDH are collaborating with many creative partners to bring Norm to life. Norm has his own website – normthedog.org - that offers children, parents, and educators engaging tools to reinforce behaviors that reduce the risk of COVID-19. Kids will enjoy simple animations, coloring pages, and can download a new Norm adoption certificate when they successfully demonstrate their understanding of five simple strategies to reduce their risk. Norm will also be promoted through traditional and social media channels.
“There is a natural level of apprehension some families, children, and school staff feel about heading back to school,” said Allison Heneghan, Director of Communications and Development for Generations. “Norm is intended to be a calming presence, positive role model, and an educational tool. We want everyone to know that Norm is looking out for us and can teach us how to look out for ourselves and others. We think Norm can be everyone’s new best friend.”
The project is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the CARES Act.
Patty Bryant, Director of Early Childhood Programs at the Family Resource Center for Putnam Public Schools said educators are grateful to have any materials that will help to reinforce healthy habits among students.
“We are happy to welcome Norm as another creative way to teach children about the importance of wearing a mask, keeping their distance, washing hands, preventing the spread of germs, and going for walks,” said Bryant. “As the campaign says, ‘Let’s all make friends with the new Norm.’ He’s one smart pup we hope everyone will adopt.”
Also in development is a soon-to-be-released hip-hop song and music video titled “Mask it Up” by music artist Zack Kindall geared for middle-school through college age youths.
Generations provides a full continuum of primary health care, oral health care, behavioral health care and support services for people of all ages through sites in Willimantic, Norwich, Putnam and Danielson. The mission of Generations Family Health Center, Inc. is to provide quality, compassionate and professional health care that is affordable, easily accessible and without discrimination to all members of the communities we serve. Last year Generations provided services to nearly 21,000 patients agency-wide.
About the Northeast District Department of Health
NDDH prevents illness, promotes wellness, and protects the health of over 85,000 people living in 12 northeast Connecticut towns.