By Katherine Beckman, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development
During 2008–2011, 19 states and territories reported decreases in obesity prevalence among low-income preschoolers. While this trend is promising, there is more that can be done to prevent childhood obesity and support healthy child development. Head Start and child care communities are essential allies in this national effort.
Why is obesity important?
Obesity puts children and adults at increased risk for many diseases and health problems such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes; sleep apnea and respiratory problems; high blood pressure and cholesterol; and liver and gallbladder disease.
What does obesity have to do with school readiness and learning?
Children who are overweight or obese can be undernourished at the same time. Foods and beverages that are high in fat and sugar often lack important nutrients. Many of these nutrients are important for brain development and cognitive functioning.
In addition, physical activity promotes brain development, improves sleep, builds self confidence, and reduces stress and depression. Children who are not active have more behavioral and disciplinary problems, shorter attention spans in class and do worse in school compared to active children.
Finally, television, computer, or mobile phone screen time can interfere with exploration, creative play, and interaction with others, which promotes social development.
What can I do as an early care and education provider?
Through activities that promote healthy nutrition and active living, Head Start and child care programs can make a huge impact on the healthy development of children and families. Dedicated to providing resources to the early care and education community, Let’s Move! Child Care was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in June 2011. Let’s Move! Child Care works to address healthy weight policies and practices for children by focusing on the following goals:
The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development (ECD) promotes a joint approach to improving the availability of high quality early learning and development programs. We are made up of the Office of Head Start, the Office of Child Care, and the Interagency Team.