The childhood obesity epidemic is a serious health problem for today’s children with studies showing the most rapid rise in obesity rates in the early childhood age group. Currently, 24.4% of children ages 2-5 are either overweight or obese. Prevention is key when it comes to the childhood obesity epidemic. Healthy habits are formed early and the early childhood period is a critical time for growth and development.
A large percentage of children spend a significant portion of their day in licensed childcare centers and homes. More specifically, in the United States, 74% of children ages 3-6 are in some form of child care. Childcare providers are a very important part of the solution to the epidemic.
The role of the childcare provider in prevention of childhood obesity is to:
• Provide healthy eating experiences.
• Promote physical activity.
• Teach healthy eating habits.
• Promote a healthy body image.
• Support breastfeeding and introduction of solids.
• Partner with parents.
However, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation publication, “Preventing Obesity In The Child Care Setting: Evaluating State Regulations”, Nebraska ranks with an overall grade of C- when it comes to healthy eating and physical activity in both child care centers and homes. Lincoln has approximately 140 child care centers and many more children are cared for in licensed home day cares throughout Lincoln. The potential impact of our early childhood projects to improve the health of the Lincoln community is large due to the ability to reach out to several populations, early childhood professionals, children, and families.