NFP program boosts healthy eating and physical activity for 1,200 US centres

by Jason Roberts

July 26, 2019

Around 1,200 early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres across ten states in the United States have seen their healthy eating and physical activity standards boosted after participating in an early learning collaboration managed by an arm of the Nemours Foundation, an organisation dedicated to improving children’s health and funded by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

 

The results of the collaboration have been published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease and show a broad and sustainable improvement in best practices associated with healthy eating and physical activity reported by ECEC programs. 

 

Commenting on the results, study author Debbie I. Chang, MPH, Senior Vice President of policy and prevention noted “Promotion of healthy eating and physical activity in child care settings has the potential to reduce obesity risk among the one in four children under the age of five who spend some part of their week in child care.”

 

She went on to note that “Recently reported declines in obesity in these young children offer early support of efforts targeting this age group.”

 

Program focused on five key areas of best practice standards

 

The program was implemented across ten states by designated implementation partners who had flexibility in tailoring the model to ensure the greatest impact. 

 

The program’s best practices focus areas were: 

 

  • infant feeding, 
  • child nutrition, 
  • physical activity, 
  • outdoor play, and;
  • learning and screen time 

 

The focus areas were structured in such a way that ECEC providers were able to incorporate specific best practices into the day to day operations of their centres.

 

Each program was 10 months in duration and included pre and post assessments, peer learning sessions for program leaders and staff, action planning and implementation and technical assistance. 

 

Most improvement seen in outdoor best practices implementation

 

The project team measured the impact of the program by aggregating the number of healthy eating and physical activity best practices in preschool, toddler and infants settings at the start and the end of the 10 month implementation period. 

 

The number of best practices in each of the five areas increased significantly during the assessment period. Improvement was highest for outdoor play and learning, where an additional 2.4 best practices represented a 44 per cent improvement. It was lowest for child nutrition, where an additional 4.7 best practices was a 20 per cent improvement. 

 

The authors note that programs may have had more opportunities for improving best practices in outdoor play and learning, while many ECE programs were already meeting many child nutrition best practices at the start of their involvement in the project.

 

For more information about the Nemours Children’s Health System please click here.

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