Public Health Nurses Impacting Early Language Development for Healthier Lives
In Collaboration with: Laura Layne, RN, MSN, MPH, Lisa Wright Eichelberger, PhD, RN, Linda McCauley, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAAOHN, Lucy Marion, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAANP, and Lorine Spencer, RN, BSN, MBA
Problem Statement: Research demonstrates that early language exposure is the strongest predictor of 3rd grade reading proficiency, which has a lifelong impact on education and health outcomes. 85% of brain growth occurs before birth and during the first three years of life, creating the foundation for all later learning. Studies find that early language environments differ dramatically based on socioeconomic status and there are measurable differences in the number of words children are exposed to (language nutrition), creating a disparity referred to as the 30 million word gap. By the age of 3, children from high income families have double the vocabulary as children from low income families. Currently, only 34% of Georgia children read proficiently by the end of the third grade, 23% if low-income.
Approach: Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) is the first initiative of its kind to use public health nurses (PHN’s) to bridge the 30 million word gap. PHN’s use naturally occurring contacts they have with expectant women, parents and caregivers of young children to coach parents and caregivers to be conversational partners with their babies. This provides early language exposure rich in quality and quantity, to nourish infants and children neurologically, socially and linguistically.
Products/Outcome: TWMB is Georgia’s Language Nutrition solution to impact the 30 million word gap disparity. 568 PHNs completed TWMB coach training to provide ongoing coaching for caregivers during public health service delivery. A statewide evaluation is under way.
Implications: The TWMB model of training multiple workforces, including PHNs, to lead by example, coach, model and empower parents and caregivers to develop the habit of talking to their baby early and often will lead to a lifelong improvement in the child’s education and health outcomes.