Center For The Child & Community

To empower communities to value and support the health, safety, and wellbeing of every child

Every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential

One of the pillars of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center’s mission is advocacy. The Center for the Child & Community was created to fulfill this mission. The mission of the Center is to empower and support the health, safety, and wellbeing of every child. This ties directly to Children’s overall mission to improve the life of every child — through dedication to exceptional clinical care, research, education, and advocacy.

Our Approach

We engage the community through partnerships with stakeholders, as well as strategic planning and collaborative implementation of community health priorities. We believe in engaging the community to ensure the work is reflective of the community’s needs – and not just what we think they need.

Our community engagement model includes:

  • Policy and advocacy
  • Research and evaluation
  • Training and model programs

Our Team

Children’s Center for the Child and Community staff work with community leaders, early childhood educators, childcare providers, school systems, health systems, and community partners to help every child reach their full potential. This dedicated team includes:

Karla Lester, M.D., Medical Director

Dr. Lester provides leadership for the development and implementation of the Center’s Impact Plan to produce measurable impacts on children’s health in targeted communities. She is also the Medical Director at Children’s HEROES weight management clinic in Lincoln.

Debra Tomek, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Community Partnerships

Dr. Tomek provides leadership for community collaborations around the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Children’s Implementation Plan. She is also the Medical Advisor at Building Healthy Futures in Omaha.

Holly Dingman, MS, RD, Manager

Holly manages the Center staff and business operations, including grant oversight, contracts, budget, and strategic planning.

Our Priorities

Empower communities to value and support the health, safety and wellbeing of every child, so that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential
GROW: Grow Children’s Center to engage and lead community prevention efforts DATA: Conduct community health needs assessment and develop infrastructure for data-integration
CHILDHOOD OBESITY: Advance community supports for obesity prevention and treatment within a family-centered framework EARLY CHILDHOOD: Support and expand early childhood initiatives as it is a critical time for growth and development
SCHOOL HEALTH: Support and expand school health and wellness initiatives ADVOCACY: Create and support Children’s Health Campion Network

Programs & Initiatives

The Children’s Center for the Child & Community has developed several programs to meet our goals of empowering communities to value health and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to meet their full potential.

  • Early Childhood MAPP Initiative

    Children’s Center for the Child & Community is engaged with many community partners, including Prosper Lincoln. This is an organization that brings together leaders from the community to set priorities and strategies to make sure that all children have access to the healthcare, nutrition, family structure, and education they need to thrive.

    We are establishing a process to identify, prioritize, and plan for successful early childhood interventions that improve the health and well-being of children 0 to 8 years old.

    Children’s Center for the Child & Community is the community leader of the Early Childhood Health Work Group to provide expertise on data indicators, existing child health systems, and evidence-based strategies ready for implementation in areas of greatest need. The work group is comprised of healthcare delivery partners, child care providers, families, and public health experts to focus on children’s health, wellness, development, and family support.

    For more information, contact Rick Helweg at

  • ENERGY Playbook

    The ENERGY Playbook is a resource for organizations to add fitness classes for overweight children ages 6 to 12 in a safe, comfortable environment. Children’s is piloting this program with the YMCA of Lincoln, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, and the Nebraska Medical Association.

    For more information, contact Holly Dingman at

  • GoNoodle

    GoNoodle Powered by Kohl’s and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is a program to help combat childhood obesity using online videos and games to bring movement and mindfulness to elementary-school age children.

    With a grant awarded by Kohl’s, Children’s has expanded GoNoodle into 76 Lancaster County elementary schools during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. The program will have the opportunity to empower 25,401 students to become healthier and more active.

    To support GoNoodle, you can purchase a $5 Kohl’s Cares® book or plush toy at any Kohl’s location in metro Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. With this program, 100% of the net profits supports children’s health and educational opportunities.

    For more information, contact Celia Ferrel at or Holly Dingman at

  • Injury Prevention

    Injury prevention is an initiative of the Emergency Medicine team at Children’s. The program helps inform parents, educators, and child safety advocates about injury prevention.

    We provide many services, including:

    • Teaching families about child safety, injury risks, and prevention.
    • Evaluating solutions for injury risks.
    • Developing effective means to increase safety practices in our community.
    • Providing child safety seats, helmets, and injury prevention education.
    • Providing safety information about various childhood activities, such as biking, swimming, and playing on a playground.

    For more information, visit our Injury Prevention page or contact Travis Hedlund at

  • Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC)

    Go NAP SACC helps childcare centers and homes go the extra mile to support children’s healthy eating and physical activity.

    Children’s collaborates with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Education, University of Nebraska-Extension, and many local partners to coordinate and support the statewide collaborative model.

    For more information, contact Emily Hulse at

    Learn more about the Nebraska Department of Education
    Learn more about the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
    Learn more about the University of Nebraska-Extension

  • Preventing Childhood Grants (PCO) & Learning Collaborative

    Childhood obesity is a national health crisis and the main chronic disease children in our community face. We use a community approach to help prevent and treat obesity in children.

    Since 2013, Children’s has awarded more than $1 million in grants to non-profit organizations in the area to implement programs that support nutrition and physical activity. Over the past four years, the grants have reached more than 52,000 children and adolescents, and provided support to 18 community organizations.

    For more information, contact Colleen Svoboda at

  • Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes)

    Children’s Center for Child & Community, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics- Nebraska Chapter (AAP-NE), was designated as a Project ECHO replication site in 2017. Project ECHO is a tele-mentoring model that improves capacity and access to specialty care by linking expert specialist teams with primary care providers through teleECHO™ clinics.

    Using teleECHO™ clinics, Children’s convenes experts to review cases in real-time, online learning sessions with regional primary care clinics to help community providers manage difficult patient cases and share their expertise via guidance, feedback, and education on a variety of child health topics. For more information, visit

  • Safe Kids Douglas County

    Safe Kids Douglas County is an initiative of the Emergency Medicine team at Children’s. This initiative is a collaboration of community organizations whose goal is to keep children safe from preventable injuries.

    In addition to Children’s, members of the collaboration include:

    • The Child Passenger Safety Task Force, which conducts car seat checkup events and provides education on car seat safety.
    • The Water Safety Task Force, which provides drowning prevention education to children and parents in the community.
    • The Pedestrian/Bike Safety Task Force, which conducts bike helmet fittings and provides free bike helmets to children. They also provide education about pedestrian and bike safety.
    • The Home Safety Task Force, which provides education on home safety issues such as poisoning, burns, falls, fires, and choking

    For more information, visit our Injury Prevention page or contact Travis Hedlund at

  • Visionmobile

    Visionmobile is Children’s first community mobile unit designed to overcome several barriers to vision care, such as transportation and ease of appointment.

    This project is a collaboration with Omaha Public Schools (OPS). It provides guidance for parents of students who need vision exams after failing the routine vision screening given at OPS schools. Visionmobile also partners with the OPS student health division, and the individual school nurses who refer their students.

    For more information, contact Debbie Tomek at

What To Do Next

For more information or to contact the Center, call 402-955-6871.

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