Child obesity, injury and overall illness prevention are tops on the list for the department of community health development at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (ranked 55 in the 2004 Training Top 100). Jeff Poltawsky, director of the department, and his colleagues have trained more than 5,100 professionals in those three areas in 2003 through a number of initiatives that encourage thousands of families to be proactive when it comes to children's health.
Children's offers technician certification and training classes for its employees and others interested in child passenger safety. In the past year, Children's has certified 32 people as national certified child passenger safety technicians, including 10 individuals who were trained in Spanish.
In the same vein, the child passenger safety parent training program strongly recommends that parents or guardians of any child admitted to Children's for more than 24 hours must receive child passenger safety information. The goal is to have every child leave the hospital properly restrained, says Poltawsky. The program includes parent education, car seat distribution and technical assistance. Special needs for children with low birth weight, orthopedic surgeries and certain neuromuscular disorders are also addressed. In the past year this program has provided face-to-face education and demonstrations of proper child passenger safety to more than 1,800 parents. Poltawsky notes that this program in particular is geared toward the under-served, for families who may not be familiar with Georgia laws or may not have the money to purchase the necessary booster or safety seats.
Focusing on child obesity and general fitness, Fit Kids 3 to 5 is a healthcare provider education program designed to help teach parents to better their children's eating habits, increase their exercise and build their self-esteem. Children's has held 25 Fit Kids 3 to 5 training sessions in the past year, and healthcare providers who have participated have demonstrated a 9.7 percent increase in knowledge from pre-test numbers. More than 80,000 families have potentially been reached through this program.
Children's is also a resource for Georgia school nurses, giving seminars on topics such as asthma, diabetes management and physical assessments. In collaboration with Georgia's department of public health, Children's produces educational materials such as newsletters and calendars. Children's also distributed a resource manual to every Georgia public school that addresses chronic illnesses, clinic set-ups, emergency triages, health plans and medications in schools.
It's about the greatest good for the greatest number. "We can improve the health of Georgia children by training others," says Poltawsky. "Rather than trying to impact one child at a time, we can train one and they can go out and serve hundreds. With the resources we have, we're really just leveraging our expertise."
In the future, Children's will be sharing its expertise in obesity prevention with other states, accepting requests for public health training across the nation. A pilot is currently being implemented for a new type 2 diabetes prevention program located in primary care pediatricians' offices.
Children's is not only committed to the needs of its employees, patients and patients' families, but also to the community. Poltawsky says Children's will continue to ask, "How can we improve the health of children?"