Features

Get them moving with a free app

Health visitors in Kent have helped to develop an app that promotes healthy activity in young children, from birth to starting school. Entitled Born to Move, the app suggests simple steps parents can take to stimulate their children and boost their physical and intellectual development.

The free Born to Move app helps promote an active early life

Most healthcare professionals know that the care and stimulation a child receives in the first few years of life have long-lasting effects on their health. An active early life can lay the foundations for a healthy future, but parents may not understand the importance of activity in their child’s development.

Health visitors in Kent have responded to this need by promoting activity and movement through an app. Called Born to Move, the free app shows simple ideas parents can use at stages of a child’s life, from birth to school age.

Julia Haynes (pictured with poster), lead health visitor for the Born to Move programme at Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, says that the project has been running in the county since 2009, prompted by concerns that very young children were not getting the activity they needed. Health visitors found that babies were spending a lot of time sitting without being able to move or crawl.

‘This impacts not just on physical development but also on language acquisition and, ultimately, intellectual development,’ Ms Haynes says. ‘The app suggests some simple steps parents can take to get their children more active.

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Julia Haynes is project lead for the app

‘For example, awake tummy time helps your baby to learn to crawl. Chatting and interacting with your baby increases their vocabulary, while reducing screen time and playing games encourages them to track objects and helps to strengthen their eye muscles to learn to read.

‘We know it’s ironic that we’ve put this information into an app when we are encouraging parents to reduce screen time for babies,’ adds Ms Haynes. ‘But we cannot ignore the large part that technology plays in our lives.’

She points out that research in Canada suggests parents aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to use apps, as are those from lower income groups.

Ms Haynes developed Born to Move in response to an invitation from the Kent and Medway Health Informatics Service, which was looking for healthcare professionals who wanted to use technology in their projects. Her team spent a day at Apple’s headquarters in London, and later piloted the app with a group of 100 Kent parents.

On its first day of release Born to Move had 400 downloads. The app allows information to be delivered in bite-sized chunks and to be personalised for each child. It also provides links to local resources for children. Much of the information is generic and other health visiting teams could adapt it with contacts in their own areas.

Health visitors report that the Born to Move approach has been successful in helping children reach development milestones.

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