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Project: Looking to the Past to Shape Colorado’s Future Report

Organization: Early Milestones Colorado

Location of Messaging: Statewide

Early Milestones Colorado released a report detailing Colorado’s remarkable progress in early childhood over the past three decades. Looking to the Past to Shape Colorado’s Future: 30 Years of Progress for Young Children and Families covers the considerable accomplishments Colorado has made in health and well-being, learning and development, family support, and education. It highlights policies for state leaders to consider for work that remains.

Shared Messages are woven throughout the report, but are especially key in the introduction and framing of the report.

Collateral:

Executive Summary

Full Report

Lessons Learned & Policy Considerations

Project: New Parent Empowerment Initiative (Reach Out and Read Colorado)

Organization: Reach Out and Read Colorado

Location of Messaging: Statewide

Reach Out and Read Colorado is encouraging expectant moms to read aloud to their babies in utero as a pathway to improving literacy through the New Parent Empowerment Initiative. This pilot project is the first known program of its kind to introduce the concept of reading to baby during the prenatal period. Currently, Reach Out and Read Colorado programs, and others like it, target women and families with infants six months and older.

 

 

Empowering Expectant Mothers

Reach Out and Read Colorado recognizes that the prenatal period is a natural time of information gathering for expecting mothers. At first, targeting expectant mothers may seem out-of-scope with our mission of incorporating literacy into pediatric care. However, we also believe in finding innovative and thoughtful new ways to facilitate a pipeline for literacy learning. So, with the aim of creating a strong foundation for early literacy in mind, targeting patients during the prenatal period seemed to be a natural extension of the program.

During the development of our newest program, we identified a few potential drawbacks to waiting until after birth to introduce the concept of reading:

A new wave of programming was emphasizing “reading aloud starting from infancy,” yet books were not being provided to families by their health care providers until the age of six months. Will parents feel “behind the curve” if they haven’t been reading to baby?

Health check-ups in the first six months are typically packed with pressing information about the daily care of baby. Will the idea of reading to baby be diluted because of more immediate health and development concerns?

During the prenatal period, research has shown that any verbal communication with baby is important. By encouraging pregnant moms to talk, sing, and verbalize by reading street signs, menus, and more, moms can connect with baby during their everyday activities. By meeting parents where they are, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all model, Reach Out and Read Colorado hopes to help forge connections that can be built upon once baby is born.

Targeting the Prenatal Period

Because the prenatal period is a natural time of information gathering for expectant mothers, Reach Out and Read Colorado believes that this is an ideal time to target new parents, as they are beginning to form their parental identities. The question we examined became: Would introducing reading during the prenatal period help families form new habits and traditions before the overwhelming first few months of baby’s life?

Creation of A Story About Reading

Reach Out and Read Colorado created an interactive storybook entitled A Story About Reading to start a conversation with mom and family about the importance of introducing baby to as many words as possible during the first years of life. The storybook itself serves as a tool for pregnant women to guide reading, talking and singing to their baby in utero, with the hope of developing a habit of positive interaction that will continue during the child’s early years. Using thoughtful language and illustrations, A Story About Reading aims to help expectant mothers feel confident, empowered, and well-prepared.

Using Metaphor to Explain Science

To demonstrate how a baby’s brain develops, A Story About Reading makes use of a well-known child’s toy (building blocks). The block tower base is equated to the 100 billion nerve cells a baby is born with and the story conveys how it’s up to parents to connect those nerve cells through human interaction and learning.

Actionable Tips Help Mom Immediately Connect with Baby

Early literacy interventions typically use messaging that equates a parent’s reading recommendation to time (e.g., read for 20 minutes each day) or instance (e.g., read every day). A Story About Reading centers on word count messaging as an easier, tangible measure with instant gratification. For example, while encouraging mom to read paragraphs of the story aloud to her growing baby, it follows with active encouragement through statements like “Way to go, you just read 140 words!” The storybook also focuses on speaking to baby in utero using everyday experiences, such as reading aloud street signs and menus or singing songs like I’m a Little Teapot. The text suggests singing this song once a day, every day for one year, while explaining to mom how this equates to exposing baby to 22,000 words.

Furthermore, the text aims to empower parents. Traditional early literacy messages instruct parents to read aloud to baby 20 minutes every day, but failure to accomplish this task may leave them feeling defeated. A Story About Reading refocuses mothers by using messaging that reminds them that being a mother can be hard, but “you’re enough” and “you are great.”

Active Encouragement to Reduce Stress and Create a Plan

Often, patient education neglects to take patient experiences into account when offering advice. A Story About Reading encourages its reader by identifying common, daily experiences as methods of connecting with baby. It acknowledges that being pregnant is hard work, and encourages mom to practice self-care. While some suggestions are provided, such as deep breathing or calling a friend, the storybook invites mom to participate by writing down things she can do for herself during pregnancy and beyond. It also encourages mom to create a plan about when she will talk, read, and sing to baby – during pregnancy and after baby’s birth – using daily activities as triggers (bath time, bedtime, before doctor’s appointments, etc.). And, because so much of the research was centered on women seeking ways of not feeling alone in the parenting journey, the storybook’s messaging also includes statements such as “it takes a village” and introduces ways new parents can connect with baby in group settings, such as story time at local libraries.

Expanding Distribution for Meaningful Interaction

Launched in April 2018, the New Parent Empowerment Initiative is currently being piloted by eight Front Range health care clinics and 22 Nurse-Family Partnership sites across Colorado. Sites were selected based on their commitment to the Reach Out and Read program model and their track record of results. A training module was provided to every person who will distribute the storybook.

The traditional Reach Out and Read Colorado program is prescribed by health care providers. However, the flexibility of the New Parent Empowerment Initiative allows for a wider, more diverse distribution network. This corresponds with the literature, where many women indicated a preference for receiving prenatal information in group settings. The storybook is being distributed during individual appointments and in prenatal group care settings, by social workers, midwives, care managers, and health care providers.

Created in Collaboration

The prenatal population is a new audience for Reach Out and Read Colorado, so we worked with existing services to ensure our program wasn’t duplicative. Our aim was to create a complimentary program that leveraged existing services to maximize impact and efficiency. Once this was determined, A Story About Reading went through an extensive review. Feedback was solicited from the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership’s Shared Messaging Team, the Nurse-Family Partnership Nurse Advisory Council, local health care providers, prenatal experts, community partners, and parents.

Measuring Program Success

Reach Out and Read Colorado has contracted with an external consulting company to measure and evaluate the program using a blended methodology of quantitative and qualitative research. The aim is to receive results and impact data as well as improvement suggestions from both the expectant mothers and the storybook distributors.

Quantitative methodologies will include telephone interviews, online surveys, and/or mailed surveys with families who received the storybook intervention. Qualitative methods such as professional phone interviews with health care professionals aim to provide in-depth information regarding impact and suggestions for improvement.

A full report on pilot measurement and evaluation is expected to be released December 2018.

Contact: Maureen Maycheco (maureen@reachoutandreadco.org), Communications Director

Project: Promises for Children

Organization: United Way of Weld County Promises for Children

 

Location of Messaging: Weld County

Promises for Children is using the messaging in banners, ads, flyers, posters and social media. They are integrated into general campaign messaging to be consistent as well.

Materials: 

Sample Banner/Flier

 

Statewide Early Childhood Mental Health Materials

A collaborative effort between the Office of Early Childhood, Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County, and Early Milestones Colorado, early childhood mental health messaging from the Shared Message Bank was leveraged to create materials for statewide partners and professionals to use in outreach to parents and caregivers about the importance of strong social emotional and mental health for children.

Visit www.earlychildhoodmentalhealthCO.org to view the comprehensive toolkit of materials.

Take a look at Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County (ECPAC) materials for community-level examples and opportunities.

These materials are funded through Project LAUNCH and LAUNCH Together.

Project: Early Childhood Mental Health Colorado Website

Organization: Colorado Department of Human Services–Office of Early Childhood

Location of Messaging: Statewide

 

Children’s social-emotional development begins at birth with relationships and experiences they have right from the beginning. With secure and loving relationships and positive experiences, children develop a foundation of mental health that supports them throughout their lives. For more information about this important topic and to view helpful resources please go to earlychildhoodmentalhealthCO.org. The website contains a toolkit of materials including fact sheets, videos, posters, social media content, brochures and more to help professionals learn more about social-emotional development and early childhood mental health, offer tips on how to support healthy social-emotional development in early childhood programs and support communication and outreach to families.  Materials are available in Spanish and English and can be customized for local organizations.

Collateral: all materials can be found at earlychildhoodmentalhealthCO.org

 

Project: Increasing Public Investment in Children in the Estes Valley

Organization: Estes Valley Investment in Child Success (EVICS)

Location of the Messaging: Estes Park, Colorado

The goal of this project was to increase community awareness of, and investment in, early childhood needs and services, and to build community support for a systemic approach to the provision of high-quality early childhood services.

EVICS developed a task force of community members who were trained to inundate the community with messages about the importance of strong child development and child care as the Estes Valley is experiencing issues for families trying to access quality, affordable care. The taskforce developed a PowerPoint slide deck with the support of the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership to help them in their effort to build public support. In addition, EVICS developed ads for local papers promoting their messages.

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Project: Clayton Early Learning Holiday Card

Organization: Clayton Early Learning

Location: Statewide/Online

We used shared messaging in our holiday card to promote and celebrate the notion of shared prosperity. The card is intended for a range of audiences, so we used the message of shared prosperity to recognize all stakeholders and their contributions to our work in early childhood.

Project: Shared Messaging in Grand County

Organization: Grand Beginnings

Location of Messaging: Grand and Jackson Counties

Grand Beginnings has a total of seven banners that are included on their website, each one addressing one of the primary messages in the Shared Message Bank. Clicking on one of the banners redirects to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child for more information. The website is available to those seeking more information about Grand Beginnings, so these messages are able to reach a wide range of people.

The messaging is also included in their Early Childhood Mental Health brochure, which touches on topics such as resilience as a skill and childhood mental health. These brochures are available to parents and caregivers and are distributed on both an individual basis and through our partners in childcare, educational services, and healthcare services.

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Project: Speak Up For Kids

Organizations: Clayton Early Learning, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Children’s Hospital Colorado

Location of Messaging: Statewide

We are using community training opportunities to disseminate messaging from the Shared Message Bank and teach diverse audiences about how they can use the messages to effectively advocate for change in policy. In this worksheet is an example of the materials we are using to help community members effectively frame their stories for policy makers.

A Call-to-Action to Support Moms, Babies and Families in May and Every Month!

May is Mental Health Month, and we know that the health and well-being of a child can be impacted by the mental health of her parents. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is supporting a statewide campaign focused on maternal mental health, specifically around pregnancy-related depression (PRD). Learn more about the campaign and how your organization can play a role in ensuring new mothers and their babies can thrive together!

by Phuonglan Nguyen, Young Child Wellness Specialist, CDPHE

The building blocks of a healthy pregnancy and birth consist of emotional and mental health as well as physical health care. The benefits of maternal wellness during and after pregnancy include a high quality of life and maternal functioning for mothers, babies being born on time and with healthy weights, strong mother-baby attachment; and healthy, happy and productive families. Good mental health in pregnant women and new mothers also promotes young children’s development, healthy social relationships, and success in school and life!

As we raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellness during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we continue to be reminded that for many expectant and new moms (and dads), the path to parenthood is neither smooth nor clear.

Pregnancy-related depression (PRD) and anxiety is the number one complication of pregnancy, affecting about one out of ten women Colorado, according to latest data from the state Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS, 2012-14). According to the National Coalition of Maternal Mental Health, more women will get a maternal mental health complication than new cases of breast cancer.

Untreated depression and anxiety can have long-lasting consequences for moms, including decreased maternal functioning, mother-child bonding, and quality of life. Between 2004-12, nearly one-third of pregnancy-associated deaths in Colorado is attributed to suicide or overdose. This dataset from the Colorado Maternal Mortality Program calls to our attention to address maternal mental health issues earlier and more often.

Consequences for children born to depressed mothers have also been well-research, ranging from babies being born early or of low birth weight, to fundamental changes in the brain development process that can affect children’s ability to grow, learn and emotionally thrive in later years. Unfortunately, these are the potential risks for the nearly 20,000 children who were born to depressed mothers in Colorado between 2012 and 2014.

But even with many proven models of prevention and intervention available today – from peer support groups and talk therapy to lifestyle changes, social supports, and in some cases, medication – many continue to be hesitant in seeking help. Barriers to treatment range from limited access to culturally and linguistically competent, mental health services; lack of consistent, standardized screening, referral and follow-up mechanisms in health and mental health care settings; and last but not least, the fear of having to admit to having a number of “socially undesirable” feelings that go beyond the “baby blues”: Profound sadness, hopelessness, guilt and shame.

Over the years, we have taken many steps in Colorado to increase our own knowledge on the prevalence of PRD, its risk and protective factors, and mechanisms to increase screening and identification for PRD. Providers and partners across the state have also developed local infrastructure, networks, and capacity to address screening, referral and treatment using locally developed and community-centered mechanisms.

But in order to make the pathway (from screening to treatment) fully accessible to new and expectant parents, we must first clear off the debris that’s currently on this path – false stereotypes, negative attitudes, and social discrimination attached to new moms and dads experiencing pregnancy-related depression and anxiety.

We must also join moms and dads in talking about the health and mental health challenges of parenthood, walking with them through a path toward support, and wrapping our arms around all new moms and dads. If you are a mom or dad, know of one, or work with one, please take a moment to look at our public awareness campaign on pregnancy-related depression and anxiety. All the materials are downloadable, free and ready to print!

Visit www.postpartum.net/colorado to find local resources and supports or call toll-free 1-800-944-4773 (available in English and Spanish, 24/7).

Want to know more on how to integrate maternal wellness and early childhood social emotional development in your work? Check out this great blog by our local partners, the Denver’s Early Childhood Council and Denver Public Health. Interested in joining the growing statewide campaign, have a story you’d like to share about PRD, or want to share what you’re doing in your community to promote maternal mental health? Click here. To receive campaign updates, click here.

 

 

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