Peer Reviewed: Reaching Staff, Parents, and Community Partners to Prevent Childhood Obesity in Head Start, 2008

Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Preventing chronic disease (Impact Factor: 2.12). 05/2010; 7(3):A54.
Source: PubMed


Lowering the prevalence of childhood obesity requires a multilevel approach that targets the home, school, and community. Head Start, the largest federally funded early childhood education program in the United States, reaches nearly 1 million low-income children, and it provides an ideal opportunity for implementing such an approach. Our objective was to describe obesity prevention activities in Head Start that are directed at staff, parents, and community partners.
We mailed a survey in 2008 to all 1,810 Head Start programs in the United States.
Among the 1,583 (87%) responding programs, 60% held workshops to train new staff about children's feeding and 63% held workshops to train new staff about children's gross motor activity. Parent workshops on preparing or shopping for healthy foods were offered by 84% of programs and on encouraging children's gross motor activity by 43% of programs. Ninety-seven percent of programs reported having at least 1 community partnership to encourage children's healthy eating, and 75% reported at least 1 to encourage children's gross motor activity.
Head Start programs reported using a multilevel approach to childhood obesity prevention that included staff, parents, and community partners. More information is needed about the content and effectiveness of these efforts.

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    • "Despite existing regulations regarding health and nutrition, there are no specific requirements in 3 domains: 1) measuring or reporting children’s body mass index (BMI), 2) assessing and responding to household food insecurity, or 3) determining children’s maximum portion sizes by staff during meals. Using national data from the Study of Healthy Activity and Eating Practices and Environments in Head Start (SHAPES) (9-11), we describe program practices in these 3 related domains. "
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    ABSTRACT: Head Start is a federally funded early childhood education program that serves just over 900,000 US children, many of whom are at risk for obesity, are living in food insecure households, or both. The objective of this study was to describe Head Start practices related to assessing body mass index (BMI), addressing food insecurity, and determining portion sizes at meals. A survey was mailed in 2008 to all eligible Head Start programs (N = 1,810) as part of the Study of Healthy Activity and Eating Practices and Environments in Head Start. We describe program directors' responses to questions about BMI, food insecurity, and portion sizes. The response rate was 87% (N = 1,583). Nearly all programs (99.5%) reported obtaining height and weight data, 78% of programs calculated BMI for all children, and 50% of programs discussed height and weight measurements with all families. In 14% of programs, directors reported that staff often or very often saw children who did not seem to be getting enough to eat at home; 55% saw this sometimes, 26% rarely, and 5% never. Fifty-four percent of programs addressed perceived food insecurity by giving extra food to children and families. In 39% of programs, staff primarily decided what portion sizes children received at meals, and in 55% the children primarily decided on their own portions. Head Start programs should consider moving resources from assessing BMI to assessing household food security and providing training and technical assistance to help staff manage children's portion sizes.
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