happy kid playing with colored ballsThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released their first-ever Early Care and Education State Indicator Report. Though concern for the future of our nation’s children has been a top public health concern for years, this inaugural report is a milestone, signifying that prevention efforts are now being prioritized for the earliest years of life.

It’s no secret that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Kentucky. What happens to children now affects the society we are creating for our future and we understand that the best opportunity for prevention happens before they enter a Kindergarten classroom. But there is good news: The latest WIC data, has found significant improvements in the obesity rate among low-income young children in Kentucky from 18.2% in 2010 to 13.3% in 2014. For the past six years, the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky Early Care and Education Committee has been tirelessly working to provide Kentucky’s youngest children with opportunities for healthy growth. We know there’s more work to do, but we’d like to take an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come:

Engagement

  • In 2010, the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Numbers for Kentucky Families statewide campaign was developed to give parents, health care professionals and child care operators a simple, memorable way to talk about the key to behaviors that promote lifelong health. Although the message was developed for the early care audience, the message is relatable for all ages and continues to be promoted in different settings across the state.
  • The 5-2-1-0 Parent Engagement Toolkit was designed to help engage and empower parents to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors that support active living and lifelong learning – all resources are free and available for download.
  • New partnerships with libraries, Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, parks, and faith-based organizations have expanded the reach and helped ensure the 5-2-1-0 message is embedded in other settings where families live, work, learn and play – not just in child care facilities.

Training

Consistent Policy

  • In 2015, the Early Care and Education Committee provided 14 recommendations to licensing requirements that would strengthen regulations that would require healthy learning environments consistent with Let’s Move! Child Care and Caring for Our Children Standards. Updates to regulations have not been finalized, but we are hopeful that Kentucky will model other states and include additional high-impact obesity prevention components.
  • Although Kentucky’s Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP) does not provide specific obesity prevention interventions, CACFP staff have received training on menu improvement, promotion of 5-2-1-0, and Farm to CACFP.
  • In 2016, 80 farmers markets across Kentucky accepted WIC farmers market nutrition program (FMNP) benefits, working to bring locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to the homes of low-income women, infants, and children. Newer incentive programs such as Double Dollars are successfully encouraging Kentucky families to shop for healthier produce at farmers markets by doubling the value of federal nutrition benefits. In fact, several counties are experiencing unprecedented redemption rates as high as 90%.
The Partnership for a Fit Kentucky has committed to promoting policies consistent with best practices that specifically address healthy eating and physical activity in early care and education settings – because we all have a stake in making sure children get the care and education they need. We continue to challenge early child care providers, educational professionals, parents, and advocates to join us in providing our youngest citizens with a healthy foundation essential for a stronger Kentucky.


Additional Resources
State of Obesity – Early Care and Education
A Bright Future: Signs of Progress for Youngest Kentuckians