Mapping the Success of the Choose Safe Places Program

A group of five children laughing with brightly colored toys behind them.

“The Story Map is a tool states can use to showcase their impact, during the pilot phase, to potential partners. It is a way of capturing what we currently know and making sure it is in a format people can understand.”

— Jennifer Farramola, MPH, CHES, health communication specialist fellow, ATSDR Office of Capacity Development and Applied Prevention Science (OCDAPS)

The Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) Story Map, a user friendly report that highlights CSPECE state programs from 2017–2019, is a top-viewed ATSDR webpage that helps state CSPECE programs engage partners and gain local support for safe siting of childcare programs.

ATSDR’s Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) Program encourages careful consideration about where to place early care and education facilities, such as childcare centers. Many states do not have a formal process to assess these locations for harmful chemicals and to determine, for example, if they are on or near old gas stations, factories, or dry cleaners. That’s why the program provides towns, cities, and states with a framework to adopt practices that ensure that childcare centers are located away from chemical hazards such as arsenic and lead. With 8.3 million children younger than the age 5 years attending daycares and other early childcare centers in the United States, CSPECE’s work is essential to reduce childhood environmental exposures that could lead to childhood developmental delays and harmful health effects.

In 2021, ATSDR’s CSPECE Communication Workgroup created a CSPECE Story Map report to track the first 3 years (2017–2019) of the CSPECE program, highlight pilot programs across the 28 states, and increase awareness of their efforts. The workgroup collaborated with CSPECE partners to develop a user-friendly tool that uses qualitative and quantitative data to celebrate successes and lessons learned. The Story Map also positions the program to garner more support from childcare facilities, licensing agencies for childcare facilities, and state and local health departments.

In 2021, the Story Map emerged as a top-viewed ATSDR webpage that helped increase interest and awareness of the CSPECE program and its resources. It is a tool states can use to garner support for their programs. ATSDR encourages all towns, cities, and states to use this Story Map to

A large graph with a smaller circular graph in front of it.

Share data that inform current and potential partners about pilot efforts to protect children from harmful environmental hazards.

Lines connecting three faceless people.

Contact, engage, and build relationships across states that foster more collaboration and share lessons learned.

Arrows pointing in different directions surrounding a faceless person.

Raise awareness and build interest in CSPECE’s work across other states, regions, and federal entities.

The workgroup is looking to evaluate the Story Map through outreach to end-users. ATSDR will continue to help states make use of CSPECE and share their successes. It is also working to add more resources to its current tools, with hopes of expanding the program to meet the needs of all states.