Childhood obesity is recognized as a public health epidemic and economically crippling issue, and children of color are particularly vulnerable. The trajectory toward obesity is likely established as early as the age of five, making early childhood a most vulnerable time in the lifespan and a key opportunity for primary prevention. Diets of preschool aged children lack fruit and vegetables, and children in preschool do little physical activity. In order to effectively reduce health disparities in the control and prevention of obesit, community based participatory research (CBPR) may be used to enhance relevance and sustainability of obesity interventions, and includes community members and scientists as equal partners in the research. This project employs an academic-community partnership, which has sought to identify obesity prevention and control strategies via interactive meetings, community events and data collection. The proposed study was developed to incorporate both partnership and government recommendations. A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report recommended actions that healthcare professionals, caregivers, and policymakers can take to prevent obesity in children five and younger, including providing PA opportunities for at least 15 minutes per hour while children are in care (Recommendation 3-1), providing meals and snacks as part of a daily routine and reinforcing children's internal cues of hunger and fullness (Recommendation 4-4) and providing guidance, training and educating those working with young children to increase children's healthy eating and counsel parents about their children's diet (Recommendation 4-6). First, this study will develop and test an extracurricular science and career two part internship and fellowship program for high school students. Next we will develop and evaluate a dietary habits and physical activity intervention for delivery in daycare settings to preschool children. Both will be integrated in the delivery in daycare facilities via mentored, trained high school students. High school students will be mentored by undergraduate interns. We will capitalize on the existing partnership and relationships with the community to recruit local daycare centers and high school aged students. Education modules on nutrition and promoting physical activity will be developed using published guidelines and delivered by mentored high school students to preschoolers in daycares using garden and gardening examples. The program will be comprehensively evaluated using quantitative and qualitative methods to determine reach, efficacy, adoption, implementation and maintenance. Presuming that the aims are accomplished and the project is successful, these findings will be distributed to health promoters and researchers as a simple and effective strategy to increase physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption and promote healthy eating in preschoolers in daycare centers while improving the knowledge and career potential of high school students.
Approximately 280,000 deaths and $117 billion in medical expenses are attributed to obesity and obesity- related conditions each year and there is no known sustainable solution. The trajectory toward obesity is likely established as early as the age of five, making early childhood a vulnerable time in the lifespan and key opportunity for primary prevention. Capitalizing on an existing partnership to recruit daycare centers, preschoolers and student peer educators to develop and evaluate a physical activity and dietary habits intervention, using education modules based on IOM guidelines, on preschoolers in daycare facilities using gardens is highly significant to public health.
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