Talk With Me Baby: A Statewide Public-Private Initiative
Responding to the growing body of research on neuroscience and early brain development, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, identified language acquisition as a public health imperative. Beginning in 2013, DPH began training the 1,000 WIC nutritionists who interact with families in the 199 WIC offices across the state, building their capacity to encourage new and expectant parents to deliver language nutrition to their children.
With literacy being a primary strategic goal of the Georgia Department of Education, the department views efforts to promote abundant language nutrition for today’s infants as a key component of ensuring that tomorrow’s students are successful.
The Atlanta Speech School is the nation’s most comprehensive center for language and literacy, delivering professional development training to educators working with children from birth through age 8. Read Right from the Start, its online campus, provides accredited professional learning programs to early learning educators at no cost, including courses on delivering language nutrition to their children in their care and language nutrition coaching to reach parents.
By engaging faculty and researchers at Emory University, TWMB is able to leverage cutting-edge technologies and translational research and can also reach healthcare professionals in training by integrating language nutrition curricula into those schools’ program.
By engaging faculty and researchers at Emory University, TWMB is able to leverage cutting-edge technologies and translational research and can also reach healthcare professionals in training by integrating language nutrition curricula into those schools’ programs.
This statewide campaign promotes collective, population-based action from public and private entities around a four-part common agenda designed to ensure that every child is on a path to reading proficiency by the end of third grade. Language nutrition, and the early brain development it stimulates, is one of the four pillars of that agenda.
Each of these partners was individually engaged in the space of early brain development and language and literacy development. After receiving a three-year grant from United Way of Greater Atlanta in 2014, they formed the TWMB collaborative in an effort to leverage each other’s expertise and influence to design and implement a scalable and sustainable strategy for ensuring that all children in Georgia – and beyond – receive abundant language nutrition.
In order to achieve their shared vision, they engaged other key public and private partners, including:
- the state agencies overseeing early care and learning, child welfare, and Medicaid;
- healthcare leaders in pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology;
- health insurance companies;
- hospital systems;
- the state’s public broadcasting organization;
- higher education entities including the Technical College System of Georgia, the University System of Georgia, and individual colleges and universities;
- corporate partners; and
- other nonprofit agencies and leaders.
Tips on Identifying TWMB Partners in Your State
The TWMB leaders in Georgia represent organizations that had already identified the importance of early brain development and the role of adult-child language rich interactions in stimulating that development. They were, therefore, looking for opportunities to collaborate with other entities whose work aligned with theirs.
In your state, other public and private entities might be interested in leading the TWMB charge. Based upon our experiences in Georgia, we would recommend that all TWMB collaboratives include at least one state department or agency, addressing the areas of health/public health, education, early care and learning (for states like Georgia that have a department dedicated to childcare and early education programs), Medicaid, and/or child welfare.
Other types of partners that could be recruited to take part in a TWBM initiative include:
- State university systems and/or private universities that could integrate the TWMB curricula into their nursing and early learning courses
- Clinical entities, including regional perinatal centers, whose nurses and healthcare staff could be trained to become TWMB coaches
- State chapters of national professional associations representing OB/GYN, pediatrics, nursing, etc. that could promote the initiative
- State public broadcasting service organizations that can provide strategic communications support
- Local and regional businesses that can provide funding and in-kind support
- Programs that align with TWMB’s workforce approach
Possible State-Level Partners to Promote a TWMB Collaborative
- State Departments of Health/Public Health, Education, Medicaid, Child Welfare and Early Childhood Care and Education (where applicable)
- State Medicaid Director
- State University Systems; Private Universities with interdisciplinary representation (e.g., nursing, medicine, public health, education, social work, public policy)
- State chapters of national professional associations
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology
- American Educational Research Association
- Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
- American Public Health Association
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses
- National Association of pediatric nurse practitioners
- National Education Association
- Clinical Entities that are Recognized Nationally
- Regional Perinatal Centers
- State Public Broadcasting Service Organization
- Local and regional business partners
- Program partners
- Reach Out and Read