Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breaking down barriers to prevent childhood obesity

Date:
March 2, 2010
Source:
Temple University
Summary:
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.

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 July 25, 2014 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 July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. 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.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          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