Policies for Creating Healthier Environments in Early Childcare and Afterschool Programs
Childhood obesity is a leading public health threat of the 21st century. Early learning and afterschool programs represent an incredible opportunity to influence the healthy eating and physical activity practices of thousands of youth across the country.
YMCA of the USA provides early childhood and afterschool programs that serve more than 700,000 youth nationwide. The YMCA programs pledged to create healthier environments for children by implementing some of the most rigorous and evidence-based Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards being adopted. HEPA standards address food and beverages, physical activity, screen time, and parent engagement. We evaluated program policies and documents for 193 early learning programs and 311 afterschool programs to determine baseline compliance with the standards. A subset of these programs was then provided a customized feedback report, webinar training, and a grant to work on implementing the standards. Approximately six months later, the subset of programs (51 early childhood and 68 afterschool) was re-assessed for their compliance with the standards.
At baseline, zero programs were compliant with 100% of standards. At follow up, 19 programs were compliant with 100% of the standards. Seventy-five of the 119 programs met 70% or more of the standards. The greatest improvements were in meeting standards for prohibiting fried foods and sugar sweetened beverages.
This is the first time programs have achieved compliance with 100% of the HEPA standards since the pledge in 2011. The findings underscore the need for targeted outreach and funding in helping childcare settings create policy changes for healthier environments.
Learning Areas:Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research
Describe the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards Identify the factors that help early childcare and afterschool programs implement the HEPA standards
Keyword(s): Evaluation, Nutrition
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have evaluated the healthy living activities in early learning and out of school time programs, including overseeing the compliance of early learning programs to the Y-USA HEPA Standards, for 3 years. I currently serve as a Research Associate in the Center for Healthy Child and Youth Development at Altarum Institute.
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.