Head Start Centers Can Influence Healthy Behaviors: Evaluation of a Nutrition and Physical Activity Educational Intervention

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Health Professions


BACKGROUND: Because healthy habits are established early in life, it is important to teach young children about foods that contribute to a healthy diet. One of the strategies recommended by the 2015‐2020 Dietary Guidelines is to implement educational programs in community settings such as child care and preschool settings. Head Start is one such educational child care setting that serves young children ages 3 to 5 years old.

METHODS: A community partnership was established between Jackson County Civic Action Agency and supported by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Youth Health Coalition's Childhood Obesity Initiative. A quasi‐experimental nonequivalent 2‐group pre/post‐test study design was utilized to determine the effectiveness of a 12‐week physical activity and nutrition education program delivered in a Head Start setting.

RESULTS: There was a statistically significant improvement in fruit (F = 5.602, df = 1, p = .018) and vegetable (F = 16.061, df = 1, p < .001) recognition scores, and the number of “tried and liked” fruits (F = 5.579, df = 1, p = .019) and vegetables (F = 88.559, df = 1, p < .001) between children in the control group (n = 86) and intervention group (n = 303) when controlling for scores at baseline.

CONCLUSION: Utilizing the Head Start program as a setting for health education program delivery is one available strategy to combat childhood obesity on a community level.

Publication Title

Journal of School Health

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