Developing healthy eating habits and providing opportunities for active play and exploration early in a child’s life is crucial to creating a foundation for their physical health for years to come. Eating patterns, or choices regarding the amount and quality of food and nutrition, begin developing in children as young as seven months, so starting children on the right track early is important.
Unfortunately, many children do not have access to nutritious foods early on or do not get enough active play during their day—in some cases, time spent on mobile devices, computers, and watching TV cuts into time they could be spending playing and running. Poor eating habits and low levels of physical activity have been linked to childhood obesity, and studies show that when children are obese, they rarely “grow out of it.”
The Reducing Obesity in Youth Act, introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), recognizes the impact that healthy habits have on children and how critical these habits are in helping children reach their full potential. The bill focuses on three area-specific interventions: the improvement of eating patterns, physical activity, and the amount of screen time a child has per day with television programs, movies, handheld devices, etc.
The Reducing Obesity in Youth Act would amend the Public Health Service Act to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award five year competitive grants to local entities, such as nonprofits with expertise in early childhood health and obesity or institutions of higher education or research.
These grants will:
- Provide training, technical assistance, and resources to programs to support implementation of practices that improve nutrition quality and increase active play in early care and education (ECE) environments,
- Create sustainable training programs that create healthier ECE environments, and
- Support collaborations with organizations that can provide evaluation and outcomes measurements of the training and support projects.
The intent is to create healthier early care environments and educational settings by focusing on nutrition, activity, and screen time. Furthermore, parents will be engaged to support these eating and physical activity programs to ensure that children learn healthy habits at home and at school. Programs will need to show that they are providing solutions for a wide variety of communities—urban, rural, low income, and communities of color.
Obesity has been linked to low self-esteem, low academic performance, and higher rates of cardiovascular and heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Helping children develop healthy choices at a young age can help them avoid some of these challenges. Childhood obesity in the United States has tripled over the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent childhood obesity data shows that in 2011, 8.4 percent of children ages two to five and 17.7 percent of children ages six to 11 were overweight. Child Care Aware® of America strongly supports Senator Booker’s Reducing Obesity in Youth Act and encourages others to invest in children’s health.
For more information on how to prevent childhood obesity visit the following: