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Call to Action: State public health officials call on educators to help end childhood obesity

Kentucky’s Department for Public Health is challenging the public to join in the fight to end childhood obesity with a call to action, a pledge and a Southern Obesity Summit in Louisville.

   A kindergartner with type 2 diabetes became indignant when the school nurse thought he didn't know how to tie his shoes. "I know how to tie my shoes!" he said. "I just can't reach them." (Photo from Partnership for a Fit Kentucky)

A kindergartner with type 2 diabetes became indignant when the school nurse thought he didn’t know how to tie his shoes. “I know how to tie my shoes!” he said. “I just can’t reach them.” (Photo from Partnership for a Fit Kentucky)

This call is going out particularly to those who work with children such as early child care providers, educators, parents and health advocates. The DPH Obesity Prevention Program and the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky have partnered to offer training, family engagement and policy alignments aimed at meeting and possibly exceeding best practices.
Organizations statewide are already implementing these practices to reduce Kentucky’s alarmingly high rate of overweight or obese individuals. Kentucky is also hosting this year’s Southern Obesity Summit Oct. 5-7 at the Marriott Downtown in Louisville. At the close of the summit, Partnership for a Fit Kentucky will host a gathering for attendees to learn more about initiatives in the state. For more information on the summit, click here and to register for the PFK gathering click here.
“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,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield said. “We are asking the early child care community as well as parents, health care providers and other stakeholders to answer our call to action and help us reverse the obesity epidemic.”
A committee is developing training, family engagement campaigns and policy recommendations that address healthy eating and physical activity in early care and educational settings. The full document can be read online here and more information found here.
“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 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 Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Campbell, Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton. 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 Pledge Form is available online or by emailing Rebekah.Duchette@ky.gov. 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 and
• CHFS Division of Child Care Children Inc.
From DPH

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