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Eat. Move. Talk! Builds Healthy Habits in the Youngest Georgians

April 26, 2017
A young girl skipping and pulling a kite.

Since last September, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has supported the healthy growth of children from newborn to 5 years old with the Eat. Move. Talk! program. The program focuses on healthy eating, physical activity, and language development for Georgia’s youngest residents.
 

 

Specifically, the program aims to increase the quantity and quality of:

  • Fruits and vegetables,
  • Physical activity, and
  • Spoken words.

With a focus on these three areas, Eat. Move. Talk! supports healthy body and brain development while preparing children for school.

Why Food, Activity, and Language

Childhood obesity in America has more than tripled since the 1970s. While some risk for obesity is genetic, much of a child’s health can be controlled with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. A supportive environment, both in educational settings and at home, can make it easier for children to maintain a healthy weight. These healthy habits can carry through from childhood to adulthood, building a lifetime of physical health.

Eat. Move. Talk! not only addresses children’s physical wellbeing, but also their mental and emotional health. Eating well and staying active instills self-confidence and concentration while developing healthier social, cognitive, and emotional skills. And, of course, the final piece of the program — Talk — continues to build a child’s mental capacities. Even talking to a baby who isn’t yet born can help the child’s development. Activities like reading books, telling stories, and singing nourish the child’s brain, social skills, and language development.

How it Works

Eat. Move. Talk! is essentially an educational curriculum. The experts at DPH train early childhood educators as advocates for systematic change in their schools and as coaches. As advocates, the educators promote changes in the environment and policies in their schools. And as coaches, they model healthy eating, physical activity, and language practices for their students, and teach families how to continue this positive lifestyle at home.

The program builds on existing initiatives, such as Brain Trust for Babies, Talk with Me Baby, Georgia Shape, and Growing Fit. Emory University, Health MPowers, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, and the Atlanta Speech school all support the program.

In the Eat. Move. Talk! training Toolkit, educators receive:

  • Information on the importance of the 3 focus areas;
  • Training on how to talk with peers, parents, and others about Eat. Move. Talk! concepts;
  • Resources and practical strategies to increase healthy habits in educational settings and at home; and
  • Success stories from other educators.

Early childhood educators will also receive books, posters, other supportive materials, and continued support as they move through DPH’s recommended changes.

Priority Communities

So far, the program has reached all three target communities in Georgia: Clarkston, Dalton, and Valdosta. These cities were chosen for their high population of non-English speakers, or their high percentage of racial and ethnic minorities, or both. Children in the three chosen communities have a lower rate of proficient reading by third grade than those in the rest of Georgia. 

Studies also indicate racial health disparities. For example, there is a higher rate of minority 2- to 19-year-olds being hospitalized for reasons related to being overweight or obese than is found in majority groups. This disparity is yet another reason for the program to target communities with a high percentage of minorities.

Currently, DPH is looking for ways to expand the program.

Learn More

Officially, Eat. Move. Talk! has rolled out to three Georgia communities. But the information is out there for everyone! If you’re a parent, educator, or child care provider, download DPH’s Toolkit to start building healthy habits into your children’s lives that will last a lifetime. For more information about the Toolkit and training, contact Chronic.Disease@dph.ga.gov.

Rachel Hart

About the Author

Rachel Hart is the User Experience Designer for Digital Services Georgia. On Georgia.gov, she makes government material approachable with writing, infographics, videos, and other imagery.

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