400 Children Benefit from the Nemours "Healthy Kids, Healthy Future" Grant

September 18, 2019

In February 2019, Nemours Children’s Health System received a grant from the CDC and awarded the Y Alliance funding to provide technical assistance to early childhood education centers aimed at improving obesity prevention strategies in early childcare settings.

The “Healthy Kids Healthy Future” grant supports the introduction and reinforcement of best practices in two ways. First, the grant enabled the Y to convene a statewide stakeholder group with agencies that advocate and support quality early childhood education. The group is made up of 26 agencies and will serve as both an advisory board and the means for disseminating strategies, tools and methods.

Second, the grant supports local intervention, specifically providing professional development and technical assistance about proven physical education and nutrition strategies for staff in seven early childhood centers, reaching over 400 children. Five of the centers are YMCA centers and two are private centers identified in the statewide scan.

The Y training includes several highly effective and evidenced based tools and methods, including “Go NAPSAAC” a resource that provides assessment tools and resources to help early childhood centers evaluate their approaches to healthy eating and physical activity to ensure best practices are common practices. Go NAPSACC is a national program and the Y Alliance manages the New Jersey program license.

The program also includes the continuation and expansion of the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum. CATCH is a methodology with proven positive outcomes that New Jersey schools and childcare centers use successfully to educate and support environments for healthy eating and increased physical activity.

The Nestlé “Start Healthy, Stay Healthy” tools also will be incorporated into the professional development. These tools focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s development and provide families with evidence-based education to help them establish and maintain good nutritional habits with their children. “Once trained, the staff teaches parents the best practices, said Sue Cornell, NJ YMCA State Alliance. “During our initial pilot we found that parents saw great value in the workshop, and it increased parent engagement in the centers.”

In addition, the grant supports two “Spring Board” opportunities. The first is the development of a GIF map identifying poverty areas in NJ and obesity rates, as well as locations of licensed childcare centers and child and adult food programs in those centers. The map will aid in identifying areas of need for free meals in eligible childcare centers. The second opportunity provides 5 technical assistance providers to participate and attain a certificate in designing natural outdoor learning and play areas. This course provides methods and guidance on how to create new areas of outdoor play or improve current ones and integrate play with environmental learning.

The plan is to expand the “Healthy Kids Healthy Future” program in the second year based on funding allocations.