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Healthy Village Healthy Child Initiative Changes Lives for the Better
“It takes a village to raise a child,” or so goes the African proverb. But what if the village itself isn’t healthy? How can a community help caregivers improve their knowledge base so they can provide better childcare?

Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) researchers teamed up with members of the Buckeye Neighborhood Working Group to create the Healthy Village, Healthy Child initiative. The PRCHN Research Working Groups are comprised of academic and community partners that work collaboratively on a chronic disease prevention topic relevant to local communities. The Buckeye Neighborhood Working Group (BWG) wanted to conduct a research project that would have a direct impact on the lives of residents in their neighborhood.

They decided to focus on in-home childcare providers, who play a quiet but influential role in the neighborhood. They have regular, sustained interaction with both young children and their parents and can have a direct impact on a child’s health. The goal of the project was to help providers set goals in three areas: nutrition, physical activity, and parental engagement, and work with them to implement those goals. The research team advertised for, hired, and trained three Nutrition Navigators to support the childcare providers in these efforts. During their intensive two-month training, the Navigators learned about recommendations for nutrition and physical activity for infants to five-year-olds; research methods and ethics, communication techniques; motivational interviewing; and active listening skills. In addition, they went through Human Subjects Research Training at Case Western Reserve University.

Every in-home childcare provider in the Buckeye area received a flyer introducing the project and inviting the provider to attend a recruitment event. PRCHN staff followed up the flier with a recruitment phone call. A total of nine in-home childcare providers responded, and seven completed the entire project.

Each provider was paired with one of the Nutrition Navigators, who met with them on a weekly basis for 12 weeks. They worked on exploring ways each provider could enhance her approach to nutrition, physical activity, and parental engagement and helped each provider create and implement an action plan. Many providers were already taking a proactive approach to healthy living for the children in their care, but found that setting goals on paper was helpful. One big challenge faced by the providers: Many of the children they cared for came from families with young parents who didn’t have their own support network to teach them the basics of nutrition, healthy eating, and exercise. One way providers worked to increase parental engagement was by sending home communications to parents on such topics as the Food of the Day or the importance of reading to their child on a daily basis.

At the conclusion of the 12 weeks, the childcare providers were able to share their thoughts in a PRCHN-led focus group. The one-on-one relationship with the Navigator became a fruitful and meaningful part of the providers’ lives. One of the providers stated that she spends her life focused on other peoples’ needs, and this was a rare opportunity to have someone focus on her as an individual. The PRCHN will conduct a three-month follow-up the childcare providers in September to examine the ongoing benefits of the project.

One of the unexpected results from the Healthy Village, Healthy Child project was the life-changing affect it had on the Nutrition Navigators. Two of the Navigators have an interest in continuing work as researchers. One of the Navigators has been invited to present an overview of her work on the project at the final meeting of the Buckeye Working Group.

Sarah Jones, project coordinator noted: “A lot of different groups learned from this project. I learned about teaching. The Navigators learned about research and developed skills that they can carry forward. The providers learned their own value to their community. The Buckeye Working Group learned about how to create a research project taking it from idea to implementation. And the PRC learned more about doing community-based research.”
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