Obesity, especially beginning in childhood, has become a growing problem in the United States. The rate of childhood obesity has been increasing at a breakneck speed so that currently a third of children are obese (16.4 percent) or overweight (18.2 percent), according to a recent report from the Trust for America’s Health. Childhood obesity is linked with numerous negative effects that can follow a person throughout their lifetime, including greater risk for other health problems such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Given the risk of these negative outcomes, early intervention is seen as paramount by many. With that in mind, President Obama made a proclamation on August 31st, declaring September to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. To that end, the federal government’s Let’s Move! initiative encourages children and families to make healthier choices regarding exercise and meals. But as President Obama noted in proclamation, “Everyone has a role to play in preventing and reversing the tide of childhood obesity.” This does not exclude preschool programs and, indeed, in the past research has found that a preschool program’s choices of daily activities and menu selection could play a role in reducing childhood obesity. For more on the role of preschool in promoting healthy lifestyles, stay tuned for NIEER’s upcoming brief on health policies in pre-K.
– Jen Fitzgerald, Public Information Officer, NIEER