Let Them Eat Dirt: The Hunt for our Kids’ Missing Microbes

New documentary film coming in 2019!

The Prime Suspects

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Environment and Lifestyle: 20% of North American children now suffer from asthma, compared to only 4% of North American Amish kids. We travel to farm and urban communities to compare the long-term health effects of different upbringings.

Antibiotics: Today, life expectancy is 30 years longer than it was just 100 years ago, largely due to antibiotics – a remarkable achievement. But have we inadvertently traded one class of ailments for another?

C-sections: Babies born vaginally pick up vaginal and fecal microbes from mom, while those born via c-section are first exposed to microbes from maternal skin. We follow pregnant women through birth and the first few months to explore how these initial moments may establish children’s microbiota for the rest of their lives.

Diet: The developed world’s diet has changed drastically over the last two generations. But why should formula-fed babies be twice as likely to grow up to be obese as breast-fed babies? And how do first foods – and the ways in which they are ingested – determine what microbes establish a presence in your gut, with lifelong consequences?

The Witnesses

Authors of the book Let Them Eat Dirt, Dr. Brett Finlay and Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta provide the framework, guidance, and clues as to where the evidence – and the answers – might be found.

The film starts with real-world kids and parents living in a variety of environments across Canada, the US, and Mexico. We meet researchers at the forefront of discovering how modern lifestyles affect our microbiota – and how these modern microbial ecosystems may be affecting our health. Some clues can be found in the work of researchers like Dr. Suchi Hourigan, who is pioneering studies with C-sections and whether vaginal microbes can help reduce disease incidence later in life; Dr. Stuart Turvey, on the link between early-life microbe exposures and long-term health with a particular focus on Asthma; Dr. Jack Gilbert, whose work with Amish and Hutterite communities has proven the protective influence of environmental microbes against common childhood diseases; and Dr. Meghan Azad who helps us understand why breastmilk should be considered the first “personalized medicine”.

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Let Them Eat Dirt: The Hunt for our Kids’ Missing Microbes aims at a broad audience of parents, caregivers, healthcare providers, and health educators. Targeted ancillary media will complement the 1-hour documentary for broadcast and web streaming platforms. To reach our maximum audience, we’ve designed a robust transmedia engagement campaign that includes key community partners, media relations, on-line tie-ins, influencer events, social media, paid media and a Knowledge Transfer campaign that reframes the way we view dirt. Initiatives include:

  • Enrolling Key Community Partners including pediatric advocates and disease-specific organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, CCFA, American Diabetes Associations, and online parent communities.
  • Influencer Events + Screenings of Let Them Eat Dirt in parent communities, medical institutions and conferences featuring Q&As with Drs. Arrieta and Finlay, the filmmaking team, local medical experts, and disease-specific organizations.
  • A Knowledge Transfer Campaign coordinated with major online information hubs such as Baby Center, Babble, and Baby Zone. Campaign includes short PSA-like videos promoting the message that “dirt” – i.e. germs and microbes – can help nurture stronger, more resilient, healthier, happier kids.
  • Resource Materials offered on the film’s website about ways to positively influence a child’s microbiota.

Budgeting & Fundraising

Let Them Eat Dirt: The Hunt for our Kids’ Missing Microbes is a not-for-profit endeavor funded by grants from foundations.

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