Family Eating Meal Together At HomeAs part of National Nutrition Month, First Lady Glenna Bevin is praising the efforts of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), to address the prevalence of childhood obesity in its earliest stages, establishing a foundation of healthy habits to last a lifetime.

The KDPH Obesity Prevention Program focuses on efforts to increase quality and access to healthy foods and beverages, place limits on screen time, promote physical activity and breastfeeding in early care and education centers.

“As a mom of nine, I know how important it is to establish these healthy habits early on,” said Mrs. Bevin. “Building a foundation based on healthy eating and physical activity is a challenge, so it is encouraging to see so many children being exposed to a healthy lifestyle in many of state’s early child care education centers. This is an innovative approach and example of effective health policy.”

Here is a closer look at some of the programs KDPH supports through their statewide partnerships with the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky:

  • More than 14,450 children across the state have been impacted by the Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative. Through this intensive training (beginning its third cohort in 2016), child care centers adopt new policies and implement classroom changes that promote 5-2-1-0 healthy behaviors for all children.
  • Nearly 422,000 students are participating in Farm to School throughout Kentucky. This program brings fresh produce from Kentucky farmers to schools and provides opportunities for students to learn about nutrition, agriculture, and the importance of supporting the local food system.
  • More than 1,000 schools serving nearly 550,000 students across the state have joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, creating healthier school environments for children to thrive.
  • There are nearly 300 statewide groups and coalitions representing all 120 counties that are working to improve the health of Kentuckians.
  • Kentucky has 53 bike/pedestrian plans. By working with communities to adopt a plan, we are addressing the walkability of places by ensuring that they are eligible for funding opportunities to make them safer and more inviting places to be physically active.
  • There are 92 organizations, agencies, and businesses that have pledged their support for Step It Up, Kentucky! This collective endorsement demonstrates that walkability and active transportation are a priority for Kentucky.
  • Of Kentucky’s 174 farmers markets –including 14 Fresh Stop Markets – 41 accept SNAP, 90 accept WIC, and 88 accept Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program benefits. Over 27 markets participate in the Double Dollars program, and many others are piloting Veggie Rx, Summer Meal Service Program, and partnerships with Food Banks.
  • Better Bites healthy menu labeling program is currently operated in all 17 Kentucky State Park Resorts, three state-operated worksite cafeterias, four public swimming pools, and several after-school programs throughout Lexington and Owensboro.

“By providing extensive training, encouraging family engagement and promoting consistent policies, we will increase the number of Kentucky’s youngest children who receive care in a healthy, supportive center,” said CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “Reaching children before age 5 is critical to establishing lifelong healthy eating and exercise habits, which helps prevent someone from becoming overweight later on in life.”

The KDPH program also focuses on policies and programs designed to improve the health of Kentucky communities. When specifically addressing early care and education stakeholders, the program highlights:

  • Nearly one in three children in Kentucky enter kindergarten overweight or obese;
  • Healthy habits established in early childhood build the foundation for lifelong health; and
  • School readiness in Kentucky includes being healthy and physically prepared to grow, learn and succeed.

Beautiful little baby boy eats banana“Public health is actively engaged in numerous programs targeted at preventing obesity in children from early childhood education training and curriculum to school-based programming to encouraging community pedestrian plans,” said Elaine Russell, coordinator for Kentucky Obesity Prevention Program. “As part of National Nutrition Month, we hope more Kentuckians will take a moment to learn about how partners across the state are shifting the environment to improve food choices and opportunities for physical activity.”

KDPH recently reported a drop in childhood obesity rates among 2-4-year-old children participating in Kentucky WIC (Women, Infants and Children). The latest WIC obesity prevalence data released in 2016 show a drop of nearly 5 percentage points since 2010, which put rates for this age group below the national average.

“When it comes to childhood obesity, prevention is the key to reversing the trends and that is clearly reflected in our current childhood obesity numbers,” said Dr. Connie White, senior deputy commissioner for KDPH. “Our program has worked diligently to promote obesity prevention in early childhood centers around the state, emphasizing the importance of reaching children before they reach elementary school. We are inspired by the changes we are seeing and encourage other communities and organizations across the state to invest in obesity prevention and healthy lifestyle initiatives.”

“We are encouraged to see that childhood obesity numbers are starting to go down, meaning fewer children are at risk for diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are both associated with obesity,” concluded Sec. Glisson.

First Lady Commends Early Intervention in Obesity Prevention Programs: Emphasis on Reaching Children before Age 5