Public Health Issues Call to Action for Preventing Obesity

Press Release Date: Thursday, October 02, 2014

Contact Information: Gwenda Bond or Beth Fisher (502) 564-6786 ext. 3100 and 3101

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is challenging early child care providers, education professionals, parents and health advocates to join them in the fight to end childhood obesity.

Specifically targeting the early child care population, the DPH Obesity Prevention Program and the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky have created a call to action focused on training, family engagement and ensuring policy is aligned to meet or exceed best practices. Many state organizations and advocates have already agreed to promote these best practices in order to start reversing Kentucky’s alarmingly high rates of individuals who fall into the categories of overweight or obese.

“It’s no secret that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country and many young people are already overweight by the time they enter elementary school. Yet we aren’t doing the things we need to do for our young children that will prevent them from becoming obese,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “We are asking the early child care community as well as parents, healthcare providers and other stakeholders to answer our call to action and help us reverse the obesity epidemic.”

The Partnership for a Fit Kentucky Early Care and Education committee will develop and promote training, family engagement campaigns and policy recommendations that specifically address healthy eating and physical activity in early care and education settings. The full document, Kentucky’s Call to Action for Preventing Obesity in Early Care & Education, can be viewed electronically on the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky webpage at

“With 2,925 licensed child care centers, licensed child care homes and certified homes, the opportunity exists for these Kentucky centers to help reverse the growing childhood obesity epidemic,” said Elaine Russell, DPH Obesity Prevention Program coordinator. “These facilities offer a spectrum of opportunities for policy changes to directly address healthy foods and beverages, screen time limits, physical activity and breastfeeding support for Kentucky’s children.”

Last spring, DPH received $275,000 in federal grant funding to help early care and education providers promote healthy eating, physical activity, breast-feeding support and screen time policies and best practices. This project uses training in conjunction with technical assistance to support early child care centers’ obesity prevention policies and curriculum.

A key component of the project is supporting and educating families. The project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and managed by Nemours, which leads the training component for providers. In the first year the project is expected to reach nearly 4,000 children enrolled in 75 child care centers in Boone, Campbell, Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton counties. The project will expand in 2015 to include 100 early care and education programs in other regions of the state.

“By the time children get to kindergarten we have already missed the best opportunity for prevention. In fact, half of obese children were already overweight in preschool, suggesting efforts to prevent obesity should begin long before a child enters school,” said Russell. “Joining us in our call to action will have a long-term impact on the health and wellness of Kentuckians.”

The goal of reducing obesity rates among young people complements the state’s new kyhealthnow initiative, which aims to reduce the overall rate of obesity in Kentucky by 10 percent over the next five years.

“We are facing an epic battle against some of the highest levels of obesity and chronic disease in the country,” said Russell. “If we don’t act, we will be ignoring our responsibility to provide the foundation for a brighter, healthier state for future generations of Kentuckians.”

DPH encourages others to join them in efforts to reduce childhood obesity in early child care by joining the Call to Action. The accompanying Pledge Form is available electronically on the Partnership’s webpage at or by emailing Agencies that have already pledged their support for the initiative include:

• 4C for Children

• Child Care Health Consultation

• Kentucky Department of Education, School Readiness Branch

• American Academy of Pediatrics (Kentucky Chapter)

• Kentucky Alliance of YMCAs

• Boone County Early Childhood Council

• CHFS Division of Child Care Children Inc.

Kentucky is hosting this year’s Southern Obesity Summit on Oct. 5-7 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. At the close of the summit, the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky will have a networking opportunity to bring together obesity advocates to learn about initiatives in Kentucky and potential ways for collaboration. There is no registration fee to attend the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky meeting and participants are not required to attend the entire summit. To attend the Partnership meeting, please complete the online registration form.

Public Health Issues Call to Action for Preventing Obesity