On the health sciences campus of Georgia Regents University, a child care center for children of faculty, staff, and students has been in operation since1988. The Center is licensed by the State of Georgia¬. It is 3-star Georgia Quality Rated (the highest designation) and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). My child had attended day care and Pre-Kindergarten at the center, and I had seen the Director’s efforts to improve nutrition and wellness for the children, families, and teachers. As an Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) librarian I was familiar with outreach awards and had received NN/LM funds for projects in the past. In March 2013, the Director and I partnered to apply for an NN/LM Health Literacy Pilot Project sub-contract award, with a goal to improve nutrition literacy among the center’s teachers.
We received the award funds and went right to work. Our plan was to purchase iPads for the teachers (the center had no technology in the classrooms) and showcase the infant and toddler nutrition pages on MedlinePlus. We also hired a young, energetic dietitian to deliver the nutrition content of our sessions—she was able to use many materials that the center already owned, such as fake food, to demonstrate ChooseMyPlate guidelines to the teachers. I taught the nine teachers how to use the iPads and took them through the NLM’s Guidelines for Healthy Web Surfing.
The teachers were enthusiastic participants in the outreach sessions and asked many questions. We had excellent attendance; all teachers attended at least four of the five one-hour sessions, and were given a small stipend at the completion of the project (sessions took place after the center closed for the day).
Teachers completed a brief assessment test at the beginning and end of the project. Scores on the post-test were markedly higher than the pre-test scores. At the conclusion of the project, the teachers indicated that they gained increased personal understanding of formerly confusing nutrition issues (e.g., how to read a nutrition label, what a whole grain is). Teachers were also able to identify aspects of web sites linked from MedlinePlus that indicated the sites served as reliable sources of health information. The dietician also incorporated content from MedlinePlus into her final session, although she had not been required to do so.
One teacher commented: “I like the fact that going to MedlinePlus for medical and nutrition information will provide information only from secure sites. Also, I was clueless about caloric and water intake needs. Now I’ve transferred my learning from these classes to my practices with my family. Now I try to serve the MyPlate categories and portion sizes. I now read labels on products in the grocery store before making a decision about purchasing items.” Another teacher stated: “I learned a great deal. I found out that a lot of foods I classified as healthy were actually not healthy.”
Childhood obesity is a huge risk for this generation of children, many of whom spend significant time and consume a good deal of their daily food intake at day care centers. Access to technology and nutrition training made a difference in teachers’ knowledge about wellness and healthy food choices. When child care teachers understand principles of good nutrition, and learn how to use technology to share that information with parents and other family members, everyone benefits. Our library is grateful to NN/LM SE/A for this opportunity to partner with a new user population that we have never reached before.
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