NUW Family 02In response to the growing childhood obesity epidemic, Nestlé, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Health Professions and Woodlawn Foundation have come together to create the NUW Early Childhood Nutrition Program.

This public-private partnership, which is an evidence-based, unbranded educational program, will kick off in the Woodlawn community of Birmingham on Sunday, Sept. 28, at Social Venture, 5529 First Avenue South. The objective is to educate parents, caregivers and students about early childhood nutrition as a means of preventing childhood obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 14 percent of Alabama children ages 2, 3 and 4 years are obese— meaning they are above the 95th percentile in body mass index for their age. The 2011-2012 Nutrition Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed a continuing trend of Hispanic and non-Hispanic blacks having higher rates than non-Hispanic whites with corresponding rates of approximately 22 percent, 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

“There has been great effort to revive the businesses and buildings of Woodlawn, but this nutrition education partnership will revive the health of families in Woodlawn,” said Woodlawn Foundation Executive Director Sally Mackin. “We aim to assist parents in establishing good eating habits during the earliest stages of their child’s life to improve the child’s immediate health as well as the health of future Woodlawn generations.”

NUW Family 01The NUW Early Childhood Nutrition Program is an unbranded six-week, curriculum-driven educational program based on research from the landmark Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS). The 2008 study found that children begin to develop unhealthy dietary patterns, mirroring older children and adults, as early as 12 to 24 months.

“Children who are obese are at risk for a poorer quality of life and a shorter life. The first 1,000 days of children’s lives, defined as pregnancy through the first two years of life, are important to the health of the child over the child’s lifespan,” said Wendy Johnson-Askew, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Nutrition US. “Our team of partners, including the nationally ranked UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences, is important to the success of the program.”

The early childhood nutrition curriculum includes modules developed to assist parents in a variety of nutritional areas that have been identified from the literature as particularly challenging for parents, including breastfeeding, hunger and fullness cues, transitioning to table food, snacking do’s and don’ts, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. The first educational sessions will be taught by Ph.D. students from the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences in the fall and graduate students from the Dietetic Internship Program in the spring.

NUW Family 04“We are incredibly proud of the contributions that our internationally renowned researchers make to the understanding of obesity and obesity-related diseases,” said UAB School of Health Professions Dean Harold P. Jones, Ph.D. “However, I am especially gratified when our researchers and educators translate their clinical work into methods that directly influence the health and lives of families in our community. Woodlawn, which is legendary in Birmingham as a place where groups unite, is the perfect place to launch the NUW partnership. Together with Nestlé and Woodlawn Foundation, we will have a much larger impact than if any of us attempted this project alone.”

The NUW Early Childhood Nutrition Program classes are scheduled to begin Oct. 7 and end Nov. 11. Classes are free for Woodlawn families and will be held every week at the Willow Wood Recreation Center, 5312 Georgia Road, in Woodlawn. For more information or to sign up for the program, caregivers are asked to contact Mashonda Taylor, program coordinator, Woodlawn Foundation, by phone at 205-599-6963 or by email at mashonda@woodlawnunited.org.

The NUW program is supported by a grant from Nestlé and runs through 2016.