• Human Health and Safety

    Reducing the Incidence of Childhood Obesity in Child Care Centers Through the Promotion of Healthy Eating and Increased Physical Activity

    NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions nationwide and have become two of the most critical health issues of our time. For the past 20 years, the percentage of overweight children has doubled while overweight adolescent numbers have tripled. In 2002, the prevalence of overweight in children, ages two to five years, was 14% in Maryland, a substantial increase from 8.2% in 1997. Studies show a strong link between being overweight or obese and having an increased risk of disease or death.

    Across all populations, children, adolescents, and adults who are obese are at greater risk of various health conditions, such as coronary heart disease, type -2 diabetes, cancer, asthma, and arthritis. These health conditions have resulted in billions of dollars in medical expenditures. In addition, these individuals may face social stigmatization, discrimination, and poor body image (MDHMH, 2006). According to Ball, Benjamin, and Ward (2007), "Children establish eating behaviors early in life, and these behaviors are often a result of interactions with parents and caregivers" (p.656). An increasingly high percent of young children spend time in care outside of their homes. The National Household Education Survey conducted in 2001 reported that 74% of all children ages three to six years are in some form of non-parental care and 56% are in center-based child care programs. Results from the Early Childhood and Child Care Study show that children consume anywhere from 50% to 100% of their Recommended Dietary Allowance while attending a child care facility (Ball, et al., 2007).

    The purpose of this research is to study current influences on the dietary patterns and activity levels of children enrolled in child care centers on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Based on the results, project personnel will create best practices for promoting healthy eating and physical activity among young children in both child care centers and the home in an effort to reduce the incidence of overweight among young children.

    FUNDING:  Evans-Allen Research Program

    CONTACT:  Dr. Nina Bennett, Acting Chair and Assistant Professor, Department of Human Ecology, nlbennett@umes.edu