Childhood obesity is a widespread epidemic impacting the 12 million children who spend time in early care and education (ECE) settings. Over a quarter (27 percent) of children aged 2-5 years are overweight or obese. Evidence-based research supports the need to provide healthy nutrition and physical activity environments for children at young ages. These data demonstrate that ECE settings provide an optimal place of intervention for obesity prevention efforts and the promotion of healthy lifestyles for young children.
Indiana has been awarded an intervention grant along with 5 other states to implement an Obesity Prevention Project: Taking Steps to Healthy Success. This project was developed by Nemours, a children’s health system, and is funded through the Center for Disease and Control. The Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral (IACCRR) is implementing this intervention model. Learning Collaborative groups have been identified in four locations in the state to provide Learning Session Trainings to Leadership teams that have been identified by enrolled child care programs. This Learning Collaborative approach brings together a large number of Early Care and Education (ECE) teams to participate in a short term learning system to make quality improvements aligned with the Prevention Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs (2nd ed) and the goals of Let’s Move! Child Care.
The Goals of the Project:
- Elimination of or limits on screen time in early care and education programs
- Increase access to daily physical activity, both structured and unstructured activity.
- Implementation of best practices for nutrition into program practice and policy
- Support for breastfeeding in early care and education programs
- Empowerment of informed and skilled center leadership teams to engage staff in ongoing assessment, action planning and quality improvement
- Engagement of families as partners in supporting the development of children’s optimal development and acquisition of healthy habits
What Happens in the ECE Collaboratives?
The Collaborative process offers pathways for increasing knowledge, creating networks of support, and engaging staff in the process of making healthy changes as an empowered team:
- Leadership teams meet in 5 structured learning sessions over the course of 12 months for ECE center leadership teams.
- After each session, teams facilitate homework-similar training with staff to share information, stimulate discussion, and engage them in assessment, action planning and implementation.
- Sharing of experience of change with colleagues during learning sessions to create a true collaboration of change.
- Visits from technical assistance providers are scheduled between sessions to provide encouragement, information, and an opportunity to share and ask questions that will sustain change at program level.
- ECE teams and staff are given tools and resources to support the increase of their knowledge of best practices and given ways to involve children, families and the community in healthy change.