Monday, November 19, 2012

Partnering to Create Healthy Futures

Maine's statewide Community Transformation Grant (CTG) is facilitating partnerships among state and local organizations to implement an evidence-based approach to reduce childhood obesity. Working with state agencies and private programs that care for children, the Maine CTG effort has been able to leverage the expertise of the Let's Go! 5210 Goes to Childcare program and added resources to support healthy eating and active living in childcare programs. Already, more than 230 additional sites are benefiting from the collaborative approach.


Challenge

In 2011, more than 38% of Maine's kindergarten students were overweight or obese. Carrying too much weight as a young child increases the risk of being an overweight or obese adult; increases the risk of having chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease; and leads to a poor quality of life. The good news is that with time and attention, the trend can be stopped and even reversed. Healthy eating and physical activity are two behaviors that are known to impact weight. These behaviors are influenced by family, and friends, and access to health options. For our youngest children who spend much of their days with childcare providers, the childcare setting presents an opportunity to set the stage for a lifetime of healthy habits. The challenge is in providing caregivers the assistance they need to foster healthy places and habits for our youngest residents.

Solution

Maine’s Community Transformation Grant is leveraging limited resources through public-private partnerships and multiple collaborations to address childhood obesity. The approach uses a structured, evidenced process, Let’s Go! 5210 Goes to Childcare or Let’s Move, to help licensed child care providers identify and implement more supports in their programs for healthy eating and active living. Through education and guidance, providers will adopt practices that foster healthy lifestyle choices for Maine’s most vulnerable, our children.

Results

Maine's CTG has built on the strengths and skills of the Statewide Childhood Obesity Taskforce partners to create and implement common approaches and tools to support healthier childcare environments. Maine's nine public health districts have created plans and started implementation of the structured process with their local licensed childcare providers and local Let's Go! 5210 Goes to Childcare partners. In the first year with the help of CTG, more than 230 additional licensed childcare sites have enrolled with Let's Go! 5210 Goes to Childcare to begin the change process.

Future Directions

This is an opportunity for licensed childcare providers and supporting agencies to benefit from technical assistance and resources to promote healthy eating and active living in your communities. The ultimate goal is to create a healthy start for our youngest residents by surrounding them with healthy environments and promoting habits that prevent obesity. By 2016, we expect to see one-third of Maine's licensed childcare sites make environmental changes to support healthy living. There will be continued strong collaboration across public and private agencies working to address childhood obesity in Maine.

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