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Early childhood health program rolls out in Clarkston

2/17/2017, 6 a.m.

Children newborn to 5 years old in Clarkston will benefit from the Eat. Move. Talk! program of the Georgia Department of Public Health and its partners.

DPH and HealthMPowers Inc. are training and supporting early childhood education teachers and centers in Clarkston, Dalton and Valdosta to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the quantity and quality of physical activity, and the quantity and quality of words spoken to children 5 years and under.

The department has created a Health Disparities Profiles report to understand the state of specific health disparities and healthy eating, physical activity, and school performance in the target communities and to demonstrate the impact and progress of the program.

DPH is initially focusing on communities that have a high percentage of the population that speaks a language other than English in the home and/or a high percentage of racial and ethnic minorities who have high rates of chronic disease and poor educational outcomes. It will train early childhood educators as coaches, who will model healthy eating, physical activity, and Language Nutrition practices, and teach families to adopt these healthy behaviors at home.

Healthy eating, moving and talking support the development of a healthy body and brain and also promote school readiness, DPH says. Research has shown that inadequate nutrition can set the stage for a predisposition to chronic conditions, including obesity.

About 35 percent of Georgia adolescents are overweight or obese, and more than 10 percent of children 2 to 5 years old are obese. Childhood obesity increases the risk of being obese as an adult.

Childhood overweight and obesity is preventable through breast feeding, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and avoiding juices and sugar-sweetened beverages, the department says.

Providing physical activity in early childhood also sets the stage for future health: constructing the foundation for lifelong movement and healthy habits. Benefits include building strength, self-confidence, concentration, and coordination from an early age; developing healthier social, cognitive, and emotional skills; and increasing school readiness.

Exposing babies and children to language in utero and throughout early childhood builds their brains and promotes school readiness.

Language Nutrition is the use of language rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context that nourishes the child’s brain, social skills and language development and includes reading books, telling stories and singing.

In Georgia, 66 percent of all children fail to read proficiently at third grade. In the three priority communities, this ranges from 76 percent to 85 percent.

For more information, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/eat-move-talk.