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My Journey to Combat Childhood Obesity from Infancy

3 min readAinat Koren, PhD, DNP, PMHNP

According to the data from the US National Survey of Children's Health in 2021-2022, approximately one in six youths in the US are obese. As a maternal child nurse and educator deeply committed to improving health outcomes, I have dedicated myself to seeking creative solutions that can make a difference. My journey began as a young faculty member, joining a team on an exploratory study examining childhood obesity from infancy. We explored the relationship between infant positioning, time spent on the tummy, infant BMI, weight gain, and motor development. Our findings were illuminating, suggesting that strategic positioning and ample tummy time not only fostered infant motor development but also had the potential to moderate rapid weight gain—a significant contributor to childhood overweight and obesity.

My Passion for Innovation

Serving as a nurse on the executive board of a medical device incubator M2D2 at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell further fueled my passion for innovation. It was there that the seed of an idea sprouted—an innovative product that could encourage caregivers to incorporate tummy time into infants' routines, all while the infant is awake and supervised. Though an initial grant submission for this idea fell short, I was fortunate to be awarded a 9-month training with the American Nurses Association (ANA) Innovation Accelerator Program.

This opportunity was transformative, guiding me from the initial idea to the creation of a beginning work plan. The ANA Innovation Accelerator Program provided a structured framework, offering invaluable insights and mentorship to navigate the intricacies of innovation effectively.

The Emphasis on Human Centered Design

A pivotal aspect of my journey with the ANA Innovation Accelerator Program was the emphasis on human-centered design. In addition to technical considerations, there was a profound appreciation for the human element in innovation. Learning to empathize with potential users, understanding their needs, and integrating their feedback into the design process shaped both my approach to innovation and my outlook on client-centered care. Additionally, I gained a deeper understanding of the diverse array of stakeholders related to my innovative idea. I have learned that every small step counts and that you cannot achieve success alone.

A baby with beautiful curly brown hair and wearing blue eyeglasses is lying on their stomach on a colorful blanket. The baby is looking up with an inquisitive gaze, and multiple toys and mobiles can be seen in the distance.

Assembling My Team

Following my training, I was inspired to apply for seed funding. But before taking this leap, I assembled a multidisciplinary team comprising individuals from diverse disciplines, including computer science, physiotherapy, business, and pediatric nursing. Together, we conducted market research, analyzed competitors' weaknesses, and are currently funded for a pilot proof-of-concept study. This study aims not only to inform the design of our product but also to gather invaluable input from stakeholders. With luck, this pilot study will pave the way for additional funding, allowing us to leverage the principles of human-centered design and our collective expertise to refine our innovation and bring it to fruition.

Reflecting on My Experience

While the journey has had its share of challenges and triumphs, the supportive community provided by the ANA network has been a constant source of comfort. Reflecting on my experience with the ANA Innovation Accelerator Program fills me with gratitude for the opportunities it has presented and the personal growth it has fostered. But beyond personal gain, it fuels my determination to continue advancing nursing-led innovation. With the right mindset, support, and perseverance, I am confident that we as a team can collectively drive positive change in the fight against childhood obesity.

Images sourced from Adobe Creative Cloud.

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