Program Targets Early Child Care Community
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is helping numerous early care and education centers in the state improve nutrition and physical activity standards for young children by promoting targeted health policies and practices and providing training to the child care, Headstart, and pre-K communities.
DPH recently received $275,000 in grant funding from Nemours, a children’s health system based in Jacksonville, Fla. The award will help early care and education providers promote healthy eating, physical activity, breast-feeding support and screen time policies and practices as part of the National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative Project. The project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and managed by Nemours, which will provide the training component for providers.
“Sustained well-being is made possible when people learn the lessons of a healthy lifestyle early on,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “By working with the early care and education community, we are able to reach many of Kentucky’s young children and help them build the foundation for being healthy and active.”
In the first year, the project is expected to impact obesity prevention efforts in 75 child care centers in Jefferson, Fayette, Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. Through this partnership, DPH expects to reach nearly 4,000 children in the first year.
“Teaching children about the components of a healthy lifestyle early on supports lifelong health and addresses the alarming epidemic of childhood obesity,” said Elaine Russell, obesity prevention program coordinator for DPH. “By spreading best practices through early care and education communities, we are able to reach children early on when obesity can most easily be prevented.”
Childhood obesity is a widespread epidemic. Nationally, 26.7 percent of children aged 2–5 years are overweight or obese, according to a 2012 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Kentucky ranks third in childhood obesity in the nation. In fact, nearly 16 percent of low-income children under the age of 5 who are enrolled in federally funded maternal and child health programs are characterized as obese, according to the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” report.
The goal of this early child care initiative – reducing obesity rates among young people – falls in line with the state’s new kyhealthnow program, which aims to reduce the overall rate of obesity in Kentucky by 10 percent over the next five years.
Launched by Gov. Steve Beshear in mid-February, kyhealthnow serves as a blueprint for the state’s future health and well-being, laying out seven major goals and targeted means of addressing each one. In addition to reducing the number of Kentuckians who are obese, kyhealthnow seeks to:
• Reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than 5 percent.
• Reduce Kentucky’s smoking rate by 10 percent.
• Reduce Kentucky cancer deaths by 10 percent.
• Reduce cardiovascular deaths by 10 percent.
• Reduce the percentage of children with untreated dental decay by 25 percent, and increase adult dental visits by 10 percent.
• Reduce deaths from drug overdose by 25 percent, and reduce the average number of poor mental health days of Kentuckians by 25 percent.
Public health officials point to evidence-based research that supports the need to provide healthy nutrition and physical activity environments for children at young ages as a means of curbing obesity.
“Reaching kids early is the key to combating childhood obesity. Providing early care and education providers with the tools they need to help families develop healthy habits will go a long way toward ensuring the long-term health and wellness of children,” said Debbie I. Chang, vice president of Policy and Prevention at Nemours.
Child care centers in the program will participate in group learning and action planning and have access to technical assistance, tools, materials and resources to aid in their continuous improvement. Information is shared within and between teams.
State partners on the project include: Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, Kentucky Department of Education, Department for Community Based Services, Division of Child Care, Child Care Aware of Kentucky, and the Early Childhood Education Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Committee.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state's human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.
Nemours (NAH-mors) is an internationally recognized children’s health system that owns and operates the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, along with major pediatric specialty clinics in Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 2012, it will open the full-service Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida. Established as The Nemours Foundation through the legacy and philanthropy of Alfred I. du Pont, Nemours offers pediatric clinical care, research, education, advocacy and prevention programs to families in the communities it serves. For more information, visit www.nemours.org.