Online Program

Wellness policies as a tool for addressing nutrition in early care and education settings

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Humu Ibrahim, MPH, American Heart Association, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Weber, MPH, RD, American Heart Association, Washington, DC
Kate Blackburn, MSW, National Office of Policy & Prevention, Nemours, Wilmington, DE
INTRODUCTION: Developmentally, birth to age five is an opportune time to impact crucial life-long cognitive and behavioral development. With 60% of American children spending the majority of their day in early care and education settings, intervention within this environment can make a significant impact in reversing childhood obesity by improving the healthfulness of early care and education settings.

APPROACH: Early care and education programs in six communities were recruited to participate in a program supporting development and implementation of a center wellness policy. Program components included: developing and adopting a center wellness policy, providing training and technical assistance, engaging parents, and encouraging and recognizing progress towards best practices and policies for nutrition, physical activity, screen time and infant feeding.

RESULTS: The program reached 118 centers, 619 classrooms, 1,478 staff, and 8,245 children in 2013-2014. After participating in the program, significantly more centers reported having a written policy for physical activity, nutrition, screen time, and infant feeding. When centers added a written policy through the program on these topics, they were significantly more likely to increase the amount of education offered to teachers compared to centers that never or always had a written policy on these topics. After participating centers also significantly increased the number of best practices they reported fully meeting and were more likely to monitor best practices in their centers.

DISCUSSION: Supporting early care and education programs in developing and implementing center wellness policies may help improve nutrition and physical activity practices, benefitting children beyond the intervention period.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the barriers and facilitators for improving health environments in early care and education settings. Identify how wellness policies and supporting technical assistance can lead to improved nutrition and physical activity practices in early care and education settings. Analyze evaluation results from the first two years of the program and discuss implications for obesity prevention efforts in early childhood programs.

Keyword(s): Nutrition, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am responsible for developing and implementing wellness policies with 30 early care and education providers in Chicago, serving as the local Child Care Specialist for Healthy Way to Grow.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.