• Evaluating public and private partnership to improve food and language nutrition among children 0-5 years

      Ejikeme, Chinwe; Threets-Powell, Kia; Vall, Emily Anne; Wagner, Laura; Fiedorowicz, Luke; Idaikkadar, Audrey; O'connor, Jean (Georgia Public Health Association, 2016)
      Background: Racial and ethnic minority populations in Georgia experience increased rates of chronic disease and poor health and education outcomes, which can be prevented through enhanced public- private partnerships. Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluation framework, the Evaluation Subcommittee for the Georgia Partnership for Food and Language Nutrition Project comprised of representatives from various stakeholders affiliated with state agencies, academia, and community-based organizations developed an evaluation plan to improve the collaborative effort designed to improve food and language nutrition among children 0-5 years. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to assess influential collaborative factors. Methods: An online assessment survey that included open-ended qualitative questions was administered to all stakeholders (n=15; response rate=67%) to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the partnership, its leadership effectiveness and partners’ perceptions about the partnership. Baseline descriptive statistics were calculated and content analysis was performed with the qualitative data to understand partners’ perceptions. Results: The partnership scored variably across four categories that determine partnership strengths. Five factors were identified as the strengths of the partnership: favorable political and social climate; members see collaboration as in their self interest; unique purpose of partnership mission and goals; skilled leadership; and sufficient resources to support its operation.However, other areas were found to need urgent intervention, including improving on the leadership of the Georgia Department of Public Health (GA-DPH). In addition, communication as well as process and structure factors were identified as weaknesses including: a need to establish informal relationships and develop communication skills; a lack of flexibility; and an absence of clear roles and policy guides. Conclusions: Developing an action plan to address identified weaknesses will help ensure the accomplishment of the expected health and education outcomes among targeted, minority Georgia communities.
    • Integrating food and language nutrition to reach Georgia’s children in early care and education environments

      O'Connor, Jean; Ejikeme, Chinwe; Fernandez, Maria; Powell-Threets, Kia; Idaikkadar, Audrey; Kay, Christi; Vall, Emily; Ross, Kimberly; Fitzgerald, Brenda (Georgia Public Health Association, 2016)
      Background: Educational attainment and health are mutually reinforcing outcomes. Good health supports children in the achievement of academic milestones, such as grade-level reading, and is associated with higher socio-economic status, longer life expectancy, and lower lifelong chronic disease. Improving health outcomes and increasing the potential for high educational attainment is necessary for reducing disparities, improving population health, and reducing morbidity. Early childhood and associated settings present opportunities to address lifelong health. Methods: To guide the development of programs to reach large numbers of children, we reviewed the literature associated with interventions during early childhood to promote healthy food consumption patterns and language development—“food and language nutrition.” Results: Identified in the systematic review were 12 articles. A recurrent theme was the social-ecological model, widely used in the studies identified through the literature review. Conclusions: The findings suggest a theoretical framework and key considerations that could guide the development of integrated interventions to improve food and language nutrition. With these findings, the authors propose a conceptual model and outline a public health program to address food and language nutrition together in early care settings in the state of Georgia, with the potential for application in other geographic areas.
    • Tailoring a hybrid program for reducing health and education disparities in Georgia communities: Outcomes of listening sessions

      Ejikeme, Chinwe; Georgia Department of Public Health (Georgia Public Health Association, 2017)
      Background: Minorities in Georgia experience increased rates of chronic disease and poor health and education outcomes. In the general population in 2013, about 35% of adolescents were either overweight or obese and approximately 13% of children 2-4 years old were obese, with minorities accounting for higher rates. In 2010, 23% of students from low-income families, comprising a higher proportion of minorities, scored at or above proficient level for reading at the end of third grade. Targeting children 0-5 years, Georgia Department of Public Health developed an integrated curriculum to train Early Childcare Educators (ECEs) to increase their knowledge and skills to model food, activity and language nutrition in their classrooms and to coach families. We conducted listening sessions to understand attitudes and knowledge around nutrition in 3 communities with significant racial and ethnic populations. Methods: Listening sessions with ECEs and families were conducted separately in each community. Participants engaged in guided one-hour discussions around food, activity and language nutrition and completed a post-listening session survey to assess their nutrition practices with the children in their care or homes. Results: 70 ECEs and families participated in the sessions and post session surveys. With an over 80% satisfaction rate with sessions, results showed that although baseline understanding of and challenges to modelling nutrition differed in different communities, many strategies used to support nutrition were common across communities. Participants also demonstrated a need for support in increasing access to resources to improve nutrition. Conclusions: This study suggested that multiple issues hinder optimal engagement of children 0-5 years in improved nutrition. Addressing the factors specific to targeted communities is essential to reducing disparities. Thus, integrating these findings in the development of the curriculum and training strategy has the potential to produce more knowledgeable and skilled ECEs as coaches for improving nutrition.