Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breaking down barriers to prevent childhood obesity

March 2, 2010
Temple University
Many children enrolled in the Head Start early childhood education program are from low-income families and are at higher risk of obesity as a result. While Head Start has been shown to go above and beyond federal food and exercise requirements for its children, researchers have found some barriers exist that could threaten that momentum.

The US is facing many challenges in controlling the childhood obesity epidemic. Despite recent efforts and some progress, one third of US children are still overweight or obese. Yet research has shown that the road to obesity begins early in life, and it is more common and difficult to address for low-income children.

Related Articles

Robert Whitaker, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Temple's College of Health Professions, says that even leading programs in early childhood education, like Head Start, the nation's largest federally funded education program for preschool children, are facing difficulties in their efforts to help children stay at a healthy weight.

In a study released this month in Health Affairs, Whitaker and his colleagues found that Head Start program directors felt they faced a variety of barriers to addressing obesity in children, including lack of money and time, as well as limited knowledge.

The researchers surveyed program directors from 1583 Head Start programs across the country. The directors were asked about barriers to children's healthy eating and physical activity that were faced by their program, the staff and the parents. While the majority of programs reported that they were making efforts to provide children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity, they did note challenges:

  • Seventy-seven percent of programs reported that federal funding from USDA did not fully cover the cost of meals and snacks, and 93 percent of these programs used money from their education budgets to make up the uncovered costs;
  • Eighty-three percent of program directors thought that parents did not have enough money to purchase healthy foods for their children at home;
  • Forty-two percent reported that the program lacked money to buy additional physical activity equipment;
  • Thirty-eight percent reported that programs lacked time in the daily schedule to increase the amount of physical activity, and 70% reported that parents did not have time to participate in physical activity with children at home;

In addition, directors noted that both staff and parents shared cultural beliefs about obesity -- such as the belief that a heavier child is a healthier child -- that could also be a barrier to obesity prevention efforts in Head Start.

"For four decades Head Start has set the standard for early childhood education," said Whitaker, who last fall released a study on Head Start's obesity prevention efforts, finding that most programs exceeded the federal recommendations for healthy eating and physical activity. "But without additional resources, Head Start programs might not be able to overcome the challenges they face in making meaningful and suitable changes to address obesity," he said.

Whitaker and his team made suggestions for how Head Start could use additional federal resources to address barriers. The noted that Head Start programs need more funding to: provide healthy meals and snacks; increase training and technical assistance to help teachers learn how to encourage children's healthy eating and physical activity; and develop staff wellness programs to support teachers in changing their own behaviors so that they can act as positive role models for children.

"The traditional emphasis in childhood obesity prevention has been on interventions targeted directly at children. However, I think we are overlooking the needs of the adults who care for young children," said Whitaker. "To prevent obesity early in life, children might be better served by placing more emphasis on supporting teachers, child care providers, and parents to help these adults emotionally engage children, serve as healthy role models, and create healthy environments," he said.

Last month, Michelle Obama launched the "Let's Move" campaign, an initiative designed to stop the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. The suggestions of Whitaker and his colleagues for addressing these barriers in Head Start mirror some of the key goals of that campaign. For example, the campaign calls for providing healthier foods in schools through the USDA's child nutrition programs, which also provide the meals and snacks for Head Start.

The campaign also calls for support for parents to make healthier choices for their children. Whitaker said it's imperative to extend this support to teachers and health care providers as well.

"By funding efforts like training assistance and wellness programs for Head Start teachers, we are encouraging the teachers to be healthy, with the added bonus of helping to prevent obesity in children," he said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Temple University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Temple University. "Breaking down barriers to prevent childhood obesity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302111922.htm>.
Temple University. (2010, March 2). Breaking down barriers to prevent childhood obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302111922.htm
Temple University. "Breaking down barriers to prevent childhood obesity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302111922.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Labour Party Warns Britain's Health Service 'on Life Support'

Labour Party Warns Britain's Health Service 'on Life Support'

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) Britain&apos;s opposition Labour Party Monday claimed the National Health Service (NHS) was &apos;on life support&apos; as it turned its attention to the state-run service, which is a key issue for the UK&apos;s May 7 general election. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Students Back to School After Long Ebola Closure

Sierra Leone Students Back to School After Long Ebola Closure

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) After an eight-month break, children in Sierra Leone return to school for the first time since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Teen E-Cigarette Use Triples, Government Debates Regulations

Teen E-Cigarette Use Triples, Government Debates Regulations

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2015) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2014, 13.4 percent of high school students reported smoking an e-cigarette within 30 days. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins