In 2019, Nemours Children’s Health System and UNC Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group initiated a 3-year research project to promote healthy eating and physical activity in early care and education (ECE) settings. The project included three components: 1) Statewide Go NAPSACC, 2) Learning Collaboratives, and 3) State Level Systems Change. The learning collaborative brings together Early Care and Education (ECE) providers to enhance the adoption of healthy eating and physical activity best practices using the Go NAPSACC program.
With support from Nemours Children’s Health and UNC, state partners in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, and Mississippi launched the Better Together learning collaborative, a nine-month virtual project that combined group learning sessions and child care program action periods. 533 ECE programs participated in the learning collaborative across the four states. The programs were a mix of center-based, Head Start, family child care homes and school-based programs. Of the enrolled programs, 422 completed the full nine-month collaborative, and these programs serve over 20,000 children. As a result of learning collaborative participation, ECE programs saw average increase in self-assessments scores of 17.5% for Breastfeeding & Infant Feeding, 11.8% for Child Nutrition, 18.9% for Infant & Child Physical Activity, and 12.1% for Screen Time.
Results as described by participants included:
“We included more physical activity time both indoor & outdoor. This also includes more adult-led activities…The children are happ[ier]. Conflicts & challenging behavior have been reduced!”
-Little Dreamers Childcare Center, Inc., Mississippi
“Being more mindful about ‘intentional’ adult led activity and giving cues about being full or done at meals. Childhood obesity is such a real issue and giving the children tools to use while they’re young is so important.”
-Muddy Feet Early Learning, Indiana
Outside of the learning collaborative, each state developed a network of consultants to provide support to ECE programs using Go NAPSACC statewide. This expanded the reach of the project and created a network to continue the work after Better Together. Lastly, using the CDC’s Spectrum of Opportunities framework, all states successfully developed and implemented a plan to continue efforts to address nutrition and physical activity in ECE settings beyond Better Together. The state-level systems changes included ECE professional development, recognition programs, quality rating and improvement systems, expanded CACFP participation, updated ECE wellness standards, and the formation of technical assistance networks. The impact of the three-year project will be felt for many years thanks to the diligent efforts of state leaders to embed project activities into state systems.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the Better Together learning collaborative or to find out if it is available in your state.