This month, we are kicking off a major effort to combat early childhood obesity through the enhancement of our Family Spirit home-visiting program. We are adding new lessons to Family Spirit to address early feeding practices and physical activity. The enhanced program is called Family Spirit Nurture. The program will:
- Provide support for exclusive breastfeeding, and delaying the introduction of solid foods until the child is 6 months of age
- Promote responsive feeding, including recognizing hunger and satiety cues
- Promote the creation of safe play spaces for infants and toddlers in the home
- Provide psychosocial support and activities to help reduce stress, depression, and substance abuse among new mothers
- Send text messages to promote program content and provide reminders about appointments
Preventing Early Childhood Obesity: Family Spirit Nurture 3-9 months
Children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda before 6 months of age are 92% more likely to be obese at age 6. Our surveys have shown that nearly 1 in 2 women in some Native communities introduce these types of beverages to their babies by 6 months. By 12 months of age, nearly 90% of babies were consuming at least some sugar-sweetened beverages.
Starting this month, we are implementing a shortened version of Family Spirit Nurture to assess the impact of the intervention on infants' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and other obesity risk factors. Additionally, we will explore the impact of access to clean, safe drinking water on sugar-sweetened beverage intake. This program will support over 130 mothers and their babies in the Navajo Shiprock community. Support for this study is being provided through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Grant.
Preventing Early Childhood Obesity: Family Spirit Nurture pregnancy-18 months
Later this year, we will implement the full Family Spirit Nurture program with over 300 expectant mothers ages 14-22 in Shiprock, NM, Gallup, NM, and Whiteriver, AZ. We will work with the mothers and their babies from pregnancy through the baby's 18 month birthday. Support for this component is being provided through a 5-year National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant.
If Family Spirit Nurture is proven to be effective, we will also be able to scale it to the 80 tribal communities already using Family Spirit in 16 states.
Photos by Ed Cunicelli