Utah: Fighting Obesity Starts Early with Childcare
Healthy behaviors, like exercising and eating well, can help children avoid weight-related health problems and obesity when they are older. Using a portion of its 2014 Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funding, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) supported coordinators at local health departments in implementing the UDOH’s Targeting Obesity in Preschools and Childcare Settings (TOP Star) Program.
As part of this program, health education specialists work with childcare providers to find ways for the children in their care to be healthier. Utah’s 49 TOP Star-endorsed childcare facilities serve healthy food like fruits and vegetables, support breastfeeding moms and their babies, set aside more time for children to run and play, and turn off the TV screens for most of the day.
One of the TOP Star childcare facilities—the Imagination Time childcare center in West Point, Utah—takes care of more than 20 children every day. Before the TOP Star program started at Imagination Time, the TV was kept on all day to entertain the children and provide background noise. Imagination Time’s manager used TOP Star to help create a weekly schedule with outdoor play time, field trips, games, and art projects. New play equipment was also added to the backyard, and TV time for the children was reduced to only 30 minutes per week.
Imagination Time’s manager also made changes in the food provided for the children. Whole grains, dried fruit, and fat-free milk replaced white bread, cookies, and 2% milk. Once a week, the facility also served a new food for the children to try.
As improvements like the ones at Imagination Time show, Utah’s work with the PHHS Block Grant is helping its youngest residents live healthier lives by supporting important early steps to prevent obesity.
Story year: 2015