Weight of the nationTM : early care and education policy review
Published Date:November 2011
Description:Obesity affects even the youngest members of the U.S. population. In 2007–2008, 10.4% of children aged 2 to 5 years were obese (defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the sex- and age- specific 95th
percentile on the 2000 CDC Growth Charts). Health disparities exist even in this young age group; higher rates of obesity are found among Hispanic (14.2%) and non- Hispanic black (11.4%) children, compared to non-Hispanic white children (9.1%). Overall, a third of U.S. preschool children aged 2 to 5 years are overweight or obese.
Today, many working families rely on Early Care and Education (ECE) programs to provide quality care to their children during the work week. Approximately 75% of children younger than 6 years of age participate in some form of organized child care outside the home, such as, family child care homes, child care centers, or Head Start. Many children spend several hours per day in ECE programs and may consume much of their caloric intake in these settings. These programs also may provide opportunities for children to engage in structured and unstructured physical activity throughout the day.
Research has shown that early childhood is an important time for developing dietary and physical activity behaviors that support health and well being, and may help prevent obesity. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Early Care and Education an important setting to implement childhood obesity prevention strategies. A comprehensive approach that improves the food and physical activity policies, practices, and environments in ECE programs has potential to impact childhood obesity in the United States.
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