I am one of several GMU Maternal Child Health Equity Scholars working with Dr. Kathy Gaffney on a project that examines modifiable risk factors contributing to rapid weight gain in infants of low income, Hispanic, immigrant mothers. The obesity rates of these children are high, and our team is committed to discovering some of the habits formed in early infancy that contribute to this trend. My role specifically is to interview mothers at the 2, 4, and 6-month well child visits at the pediatrician’s office. We ask the mothers questions regarding infant and mother sleep patterns, as well as infant activity level and feeding schedule. Of particular importance to us is whether or not the child is breastfed or formula fed, and how frequently. We gather data on the infant’s height and weight and plot the information to visualize growth patterns.
Because the project targets Spanish speakers, a big portion of the initial project was focused on ensuring the interview questions were both culturally and linguistically appropriate for the population. All of us scholars are proficient in Spanish, and we have been collaborating to find the most suitable verbiage in order to elicit the information we are seeking.
We are fortunate to be working at a clinic where the physicians and nurses allow us to observe the assessment portion of the child’s visit, and we gain a lot of clinical knowledge from this experience. I learned the other day that one must evaluate both the femoral and brachial pulses of an infant to determine whether or not they have the congenital anomaly of coarctation of the aorta. I also learned that, while formula contains a higher percentage of iron, infants are able to digest more iron from breast milk.
My future goal is to become a midwife, and the work I am doing on this project will greatly contribute to my efforts in achieving this. The results of this research will provide me and other maternal child health professionals with the tools to properly educate our patients on the risk factors that lead to infant and child obesity. It is also teaching me how to effectively communicate with patients from different cultures, and the appropriate questions to ask during data collection.