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Pediatricians develop baby book to encourage healthy, active living

Baby Book

JOHNSON CITY (June 20, 2013) – Pediatricians at East Tennessee State University’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine have designed a unique, keepsake baby book that is being given to new parents to help encourage healthier living for families and their young children.

New parents are being given the “ReadNPlay Baby Book” during office visits to Quillen ETSU Pediatrics. The book is one component of an overarching ETSU Pediatrics program, ReadNPlay for a Bright Future, which encourages healthy, active living during well-child visits in the first 18 months of life.

The baby book is funded by a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and MetLife Foundation. The ETSU Department of Pediatrics shared the $25,000 award with the Tennessee Chapter of the AAP. Dr. Karen Schetzina, an associate professor of Pediatrics and director of Community Pediatrics for ETSU, is the project director for ReadNPlay. ETSU was one of six sites nationwide to receive the AAP/MetLife grant.

ReadNPlay, the ETSU Department of Pediatrics and Niswonger Children’s Hospital are co-sponsoring a Kids’ Run/Walk ’n’ Roll event on Sunday, June 23, from 2-4 p.m. starting in the parking lot between Stanton-Gerber Hall and Johnson City Medical Center on the Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus. The event is designed for families with infants, toddlers, and children up to about 12 years old.

 “As pediatricians, it’s our duty to take an active role in developing initiatives that promote a healthy weight in children,” Schetzina said. “We believe the ‘ReadNPlay Baby Book’ will make a difference by encouraging parents to be active with their children and choose healthier foods to fuel that activity. We’re already receiving positive feedback from parents.”

Told from the first-person perspective of a baby, the book contains age-appropriate guidance and areas for parents to record a child’s growth, milestones, eating habits, favorite books, and activities. Families will receive stickers to place in their book and incentives, such as free children’s books, for using the baby book at home and bringing it back to well-child visits.

Two resident physicians from the Department of Pediatrics, Drs. Jessica Albright and Eun Kyung Song, got the project started, Schetzina said. Albright recognized an opportunity to apply for AAP funding to promote healthy, active living among families with young children, and Song suggested the creation of a baby book to spearhead the project.

In addition to the baby book, ETSU pediatricians are providing a companion booklet,“Healthy Active Living Tips,” to parents to encourage involvement and role-modeling of healthy behaviors by the whole family. In addition, posters displayed in the ETSU clinic and throughout the community communicate healthy living reminders to the family that derive from the “Play” theme.

The emphasis on looking at books together and being active as a family builds on Reach Out and Read, a reading program at the ETSU Department of Pediatrics clinic.

 “The message about reading is reinforced by the fact that it is coming from the pediatrician,” said Dr. Gayatri Jaishankar, associate director of the ETSU Pediatric Residency Program. “It is exciting that by the age of 5 our patients have a library of at least 15 books that we have given them.”

Schetzina said the baby book project – from conception to design and distribution to parents – could not have occurred without the work of many organizations and individuals who collaborated with the Department of Pediatrics. Those include the Appalachian Association for the Education of Young Children, Niswonger Children’s Hospital, the Tennessee Department of Health, the Johnson City Public Library, BABE Breastfeeding Coalition of Northeast Tennessee, the ETSU Department of Psychology and the ETSU Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education.

“I also can’t say enough about the work of the ETSU Department of Biomedical Communications,” Schetzina said. “They took our concept and designed a book that’s colorful and interactive. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

During the Kids’ Run/Walk ’n’ Roll, nurses, medical residents and faculty from the ETSU Department of Pediatrics and Quillen medical students will be on hand to assist. Families can combine the walk with visits to a health and safety fair and get free car seat safety checks. More information and online registration is available at www.msha.com/kidsrun/kickoff.

ReadNPlay will continue its community outreach programming this summer by hosting an activity table at the Jonesborough Farmers Market Saturday, July 13, from 8 a.m.-noon.

For more information, email Schetzina at or visit www.readnplay.org. ReadNPlay is also on Facebook and Twitter.