Childhood Obesity

Improving Early Care and Education Settings to Prevent Obesity in Children

Last week, the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity released its first ever state indicator report on obesity prevention efforts in Early Care and Education (ECE) settings. The report provides data for all 50 states and highlights state-specific case studies that have proven to be successful.

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CDC’s Spectrum of Opportunities for Obesity Prevention in ECE Settings

What is an Early Care and Education Setting?

According to the CDC’s website, “Early care and education (ECE) is a key setting to address childhood obesity for children under 5.” Broadly defined, an ECE setting is anywhere a child under the age of 5 receives care outside of the home. More specifically, the CDC highlights:

  • Child care centers
  • In-home daycare
  • Pre-kindergarten programs
  • Headstart facilities

headstart and obesity

What metrics do they use?

The report looks at a wide variety of programs, interventions, and policy changes.

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What does the report discover?

Some positive findings of the report include:

  • Forty-five states support “farm to early care and education” (F2ECE) programs through state or local activities.
  • Forty states have a group or task force that meets regularly to address obesity prevention in ECE settings.
  • Forty-two states offer professional development training for ECE providers that incorporate obesity prevention topics.

But there is room for improvement. Of the 47 high impact obesity prevention standards, the most any state fully met in 2014 was 15. Moreover, only 24 states reported having a recognition or designation program like “Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care.”

Is your state, county or community embracing policies and programs that support obesity prevention in ECE settings? Tell us about your efforts in the comments! Read the full report here and learn more about the CDC’s Spectrum of Opportunities for Obesity Prevention in ECE Settings.

A Healthy Start: How Child Care Providers Can Promote Health

By Manel Kappagoda, program director and senior staff attorney at ChangeLab Solutions

More than 10 million kids nationwide spend the majority of their waking hours, eat more of their meals, and participate in more physical activity with someone other than their primary caregiver or parent. Early care and education (ECE) – formal settings that provide services to infants, toddlers, and young children – allows many parents and guardians to work. That means child care providers play a key role in helping young kids establish healthy habits that last a lifetime.Photo_#1

“It’s imperative to give children solid ground on which to grow,” said Ana Andrade, owner and operator of Wolf Pack Child Care in San Rafael, California. “That means creating healthy environments for them. It involves everything, from providing a clean place to play to feeding them the best foods to socializing with them.”

Many child care programs are small businesses that struggle to get public or private funding needed to deliver high-quality services that promote health. But there are funding streams providers can tap into that help them support kids and their families by creating healthy environments for the kids in their care.

The Role of Child Care

More than one in five U.S. children ages 2 to 5 years are already overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And now, during National Public Health Week, we are focusing on what it takes to create the healthiest nation possible by 2030. To realize that vision, we have to give our nation’s youngest children access to the things they need to grow up healthy.

Because ECE plays a major role in the lives of many children, improving these environments has become a priority of the obesity prevention movement. According to a recent report from the CDC, every state in the country needs to do more to improve health in child care settings. Providers can improve their child care facility by offering nutritious foods, providing safe spaces for activity, and facilitating learning and growth.

Click the map and enter your location to see the data in your area

Click the map and enter your location to see the data in your area

“At Wolf Pack, the kids eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. We have a veggie garden, and every morning we go out, pick some produce, and eat it right there,” said Andrade. “And it’s not just about giving the children good food. It’s about teaching them where food comes from, because one day they will make decisions about what they eat.”

Efforts like these help children practice and develop healthy behaviors.

Funding Healthy Environments

Many ECE providers rely on federal funding sources to create comprehensive, health-promoting child care. With financial support, Photo_#2providers can help provide high-quality child care to all children, regardless of their family’s economic means.

Head Start and Early Head Start: In 2014, Head Start served approximately a million children, primarily from families living below the poverty line. Early Head Start, a subset program, serves pregnant women and children up to age three. The federal government awards funds directly to ECE programs around the country. As a condition of receiving support, Head Start grantees must provide opportunities for active play, adhere to federal nutrition standards, and work with parents to address their child’s unique needs.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): CACFP is a USDA-run nutrition program that provides aid to institutions and day care homes for the provision of food. It serves children and adults in many settings, from child care centers to homeless shelters. CACFP recipients must adhere to a set of age-specific nutrition standards. The USDA encourages specific best practices that range from offering a minimum number vegetables and legumes every week to not serving fried and pre-fried foods.

The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF): The primary federal funding stream for child care in the country, CCDF awards block grants to states, which then provide child care subsidies to low-income families and distribute funding to providers to improve their facilities. CCDF subsidies support care for children up to age 13, but about two-thirds of the children served are under age six. States apply for funding, and set their own nutrition and physical activity standards for child care providers. Within CCDF, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program includes provisions for child care provider training on healthy eating and physical activity.

To achieve a healthier nation by 2030, we have to invest in our youngest generation. With kids of working mothers spending, on average, almost 40 hours a week in child care, it’s vital that we support programs that develop nurturing environments that help children lead longer, healthier lives.

For more information and alternative funding mechanisms for providers, see ChangeLab Solutions’ primer on the ECE financial landscape, Funding the Fundamentals.

Banner photo courtesy of U.S. Army Flickr.

Author_PhotoManel Kappagoda is a program director and senior staff attorney at ChangeLab Solutions, where she helps communities to tackle the obesity epidemic using policy interventions. She has coauthored a number of publications on public health policy, obesity prevention policy, and the intersection of law and public health. From its inception in 2007 until 2014, she managed the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN), a national program that is housed at ChangeLab Solutions and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Manel’s entire career has been focused on using law and policy tools to improve health access and outcomes in low-income communities. This focus is at the heart of her interest in chronic disease prevention policy.

Ready, Set, Gold! Inspires Kids to Train Like Olympians

It’s one thing to watch an Olympian on TV, but to actually train with one, that’s often just a dream of both kids and adults! But that dream has come true for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

Serving over 640,000 students, the LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation, and like many school districts, administrators and activists were concerned with rising rates of childhood obesity. In LAUSD, 25.83% of elementary students are obese (high risk).

LAUSD Obesity

This data is available for California only. Additional obesity data can be found under the Maps and Data tab.

To help address the problem, LAUSD forged a creative partnership with the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games (SCCOG) and worldwide Olympic sponsor Samsung in 2006. Together they introduced Ready, Set, Gold!, a mentoring program that uses Olympians and Paralympians to inspire and educate students about health and fitness. SCCOG promoted the program to help Los Angeles secure the 2016 Olympic bid. Although Rio de Janeiro ultimately won the bid, leaders knew that the unique partnerships they forged could be used for the ongoing benefit of students.

“It’s the first and only program of its kind in the country. You can have programs with athletes, but we have Olympians and Paralympians,” said Ready, Set, Gold! Executive Director Bernadine Bednarz.

For Olympians, RSG! is the perfect opportunity to share the strategies that have helped them excel on the world stage, and also promote the values that got them there. “We promote fitness. We promote health. And that’s what we have to promote to our kids here in America today because obesity is a problem,” said track and field U.S. Olympian Rosalyn Clark.

The program brings more than 50 Olympians and Paralympians (including 22 Olympic medalists) to 60 schools in LAUSD to train with 5th, 7th, and 9th graders throughout the school year. “We focus on students in those grades because we have a state -mandated test in California Ready, Set, Gold! Picture 1called FitnessGram which measures students’ level of fitness. They [the students] are taught by a PE teacher in between the times an Olympian is there. The Olympian emphasizes that test when he or she is there and they meld it with how they train themselves,” said Bednarz.

Athletes serve as mentors, motivators, and coaches and help students train like an Olympian. “We took nutrition classes to learn all the things we should be doing throughout life…The best part is probably seeing everyone get off the couch and see everyone play, have fun, and laugh,” said Ready, Set, Gold! student Miranda.

Over the course of a school year, the Olympians and Paralympians visit 5-6 times to exercise and talk with the students about healthy living habits. From doing a gymnast inspired handstand on chairs to cycling and running relays, these accomplished mentors gives youth hands-on opportunities to learn new and exciting exercises and sports, as well as how to make all around healthy living decisions.

“[I’m proud that] we have kept going, schools want us back, and people call us and want the program when they hear about it from colleagues. Teachers who transfer [to other schools] call me and say they want an Olympian or Paralympian in their school,” Bednarz said.

Ready, Set, Gold! Picture 3What’s more, RSG! has made a measureable difference. Data shows that students who participate in RSG! score higher on the FitnessGram physical exams than their peers in other Los Angeles schools without the program. However, most importantly, kids are walking away with confidence that they can control their health, have the knowledge and tools to do so, and can dream even bigger.

Says RSG! student Rogerlio, “I learn so much and I have so much fun. One day I hope that I can be an Olympian too.”

For more information on the program contact Ready, Set, Gold! director Bernadine Bednarz at or 213-482-6346.

Salud America! Receives Funding, Releases New Research in 2016

Salud America! is a nonprofit network launched in 2007 that develops multimedia communications to educate and motivate its national online network—more than 50,000 kids, parents, teachers, academics, healthcare providers, and community leaders—to take action to reduce Latino childhood obesity and build a culture of health. Community Commons is proud to partner with Salud America! in the effort to provide data and research to affect communities across the country.

New Research Material

Throughout 2016, Salud America! will release research packages with specific recommendations for Latinos based on RWJF’s Five Big Bets:

  • Ensure that all children enter kindergarten at a healthy weight.
  • Make a healthy school environment the norm and not the exception across the United States.
  • Make physical activity a part of the everyday experience for children and youth.
  • Make healthy foods and beverages the affordable, available, and desired choice in all neighborhoods and communities.
  • Eliminate the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among 0-5 year olds.

Check out the research already available in the Salud America! Hub on Community Commons!

Active Spaces

“Latino kids don’t get enough exercise, so it’s critical to make parks, school playgrounds, and other recreational sites safer and more accessible to help Latino kids be active and fight obesity,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Salud America!’s Active Spaces and Latino Kids research package includes an in-depth review of the latest science on the U.S. physical activity environment and policy recommendations for Latinos. Research shows that 81% of Latino neighborhoods do not have a recreational facility, compared with 38% of white neighborhoods. Fear of crime and poor neighborhood conditions also prohibit Latino kids from being active.

Healthy Weight Entering Kindergarten

Maternal obesity, less exclusive breastfeeding, and workplace and childcare are issues that affect nutrition and physical activity levels, according to a new package of research: Healthy Weight by Kindergarten for Latino KidsObese Latina moms gave birth to kids who were 1.8 times more likely to be obese than their peers.

Healthy School Environment

Research shows that Latino-majority schools tend to have weaker policies on school snacks and drinks than white-majority schools, may be less likely to implement nutritional guidelines, and offer few programs or access to facilities for physical activity. Salud America!’s Healthier Schools and Latino Kids research tackles the latest science on the Latino school environment and offers policy recommendations.

Join the Hub and Become a Leader!

To stay up to date on topics related to Latino childhood obesity and health, consider joining Community Commons and become a member of the Salud America! Hub. Members can even sign up to become a Salud Leader to receive a free jump rope, a customized health report for your area, and be featured on our national map of Leaders. You can also follow Salud America! (@SaludToday) on social media on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Living in A Food Desert

The following was previously published by Youth Radio and was written by Deja Dupree

The closest store to my house in Rodeo, California is Rodeo Grocery. When you hear “Rodeo Grocery,” you would think it’s a grocery store that has healthy food options like fruit, vegetables and other ingredients you can buy to make a meal at home. In actuality, it’s what most people consider to be a corner store. Read more