- September 2017
- Vol. 18, No. 6
OPRE Report Looks at Childhood Obesity Dilemma in Head Start Programs
One of the most pressing health concerns confronting Head Start and Early Head Start (HS/EHS) programs is the prevalence of children served by HS/EHS who are overweight and obese and their families. A recent report from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviews this major childhood health dilemma using data garnered from the 2012–2013 Head Start Health Manager Descriptive Study (HSHMDS).
OPRE sponsored the HSHMDS to capture data on health-related programming within HS/EHS programs and understand the needs of health managers and health staff. The study included an online survey that was completed by 1,465 HS/EHS health managers that asked the following questions:
- What are the health concerns confronting the children and families you serve?
- How much time do you and your staff spend managing these issues?
Additionally, 90 health managers took part in follow-up interviews. Most programs (86 percent) reported children being overweight or obese as a major health concern. The average percentage of preschool-age children in HS programs who were overweight was 29 percent. Programs where children being overweight or obese were top concerns were likely to have a higher percentage of White children and a lower percentage of Black or biracial children.
The health-related education background of the health manager was not significantly associated with perceptions of whether obesity was cited as a major concern. There were no significant differences reported in access to healthy foods and recreational facilities between areas where programs cited obesity as a major health concern and other areas.
Programs that considered obesity a major issue were more likely to have a policy on physical activity versus those that did not (88 percent compared to 76 percent). Nearly half (45 percent) of these programs required at least an hour of physical activity per day.
The report, Addressing Overweight and Obesity in Head Start: Insights From the Head Start Health Manager Descriptive Study, is available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/2016_85_hshm_obesity_161012_b508.pdf (945 KB).