The National Head Start Association (NHSA) will develop a digital learning platform, also known as a virtual coach, which delivers simple, practical and age appropriate activities designed to increase the level of physical activity of young children ages zero to five. The activities will be adapted from the previously developed, classroom-based GoSmart program, a train-the-trainer model developed in 2010 and aligned with the Early Childhood Learning Framework of the Office of Head Start.
The virtual coach digital learning platform will have the potential of reaching millions of children and families and have a far greater impact than the classroom-based, train-the-trainer model. Components of the digital platform will include IOS and Android mobile phone and tablet applications, interactive website that offers resources available for download, YouTube training videos, physical activity advocacy and community resource toolkit and text messaging service that sends periodic messages to parents, teachers, Head Start staff and child care providers about physical activity and resources.
The GoSmart virtual coach digital learning platform will make learning more interactive and encourage richer discussion around the importance of incorporating physical activity throughout the day. Parents will be able to easily and actively engage their children, resulting in increased movement and increased parent-child interactions. Children will develop lifelong wellness practices and foster their innate love of physical activity.
October 2012- June 2013, Develop mobile application, interactive website and training videos
October 2012- June 2013, Adapt GoSmart curriculum for digital platform
June 2013- December 2013, Prototype Testing with Focus Group and Analysis of Focus Group Feedback
January 2014- March 2014, Finalize advocacy and community resource toolkit
April 2014- May 2014, Develop media campaign
September 2014, National launch GoSmart Virtual Coach Mobile Application and Website
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the United States. In 2008, nearly a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Even the youngest children in the United States are at risk of becoming obese. Today, almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers carry excess weight for their length, and slightly more than 20 percent of children between the ages of two and five are already overweight or obese (Committee on Obesity Prevention Policies for Young Children, 2011).
Because early obesity can track into adulthood, efforts to prevent obesity should begin long before a child enters school. The Go Smart program was developed to help families and educators learn techniques to engage children from birth to age five in regular physical activity at school and at home. If action is not taken to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, the danger of raising the first generation of American children who may live sicker and die younger than the generation before them will come to fruition. Preventing obesity during childhood is critical, because habits that last into adulthood frequently are formed during youth.