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How do early care and education programs support guidelines on obesity prevention?

Examining how COVID-19 impacted early care and education programs through a pilot study of the Childcare Survey of Activity and Wellness

Childhood obesity is a serious national problem. To combat this issue, early care and education programs are expected to provide nutritious meals, limit screen time, and encourage physical activity. These goals are further challenged by the coronavirus.

Westat was asked to conduct a pilot study of a potential national surveillance system enabling states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track changes over time and obtain data to guide the planning, implementation, and evaluation of state obesity prevention efforts.

Westat designed a pilot study of the Childcare Survey of Activity and Wellness to survey early care and education program directors in 4 states about their practices and policies surrounding nutrition, physical activity and wellness.

Recognizing the effect that COVID-19 has had on these programs, the survey includes a section on ways programs may have been impacted by the pandemic. The survey is web-based, with a paper version mailed to nonrespondents. Westat will clean, weight, and analyze the data.

We will provide each of the 4 states with a brief report of the key survey findings for their state. These reports will provide prevalence estimates of provider practices related to key nutrition and physical activity topics that can be compared to existing guidelines.

The Childcare Survey of Activity and Wellness data will be used by government officials at both the state and federal levels to determine the current practices and policies of early care and education providers.

In addition, study results will help CDC determine whether these types of questions are useful as part of a national surveillance system to improve early care and education programs around obesity prevention, nutrition, physical activity, and wellness. CDC will also gain an understanding of the impact that COVID-19 has had on early care and education programs.

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