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To Make Children Healthier, We Need to Help Child Care Providers Get Healthier

Arlington, VA, March 23, 2017 – The effort to reduce the persistent problem of childhood obesity and poor eating habits may be more fully addressed by helping improve the same challenges for those empowered to teach children good habits: child care providers.

Child care providers care for and promote the health and wellness of our nation’s children, yet they too often struggle to make healthy choices for themselves, a newly concluded study by Child Care Aware® of America details. Limited time, money, and access to healthy food and facilities for physical activity negatively impacts child care providers’ ability to maintain healthy eating habits, physical activity routines, and stress management practices.

“We engaged with early childhood providers to learn more about their health, because we know that they help children build lifelong habits,” said Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., executive director of Child Care Aware® of America. “What habits and challenges do they have? What are their relationships with food and physical activity? Do they think that their habits influence children? Listening to providers talk about their own health helps us to consider how we can support them as well as the children they nurture.”

Results of the study converged on three summaries:

  • Child care providers have a unique needs for workplace wellness or activities.
  • They need an environment that better supports them to take care of themselves.
  • Family child care providers need support, which requires innovative solutions and more funding to boost training, support and self-care.

Results were collected from six focus groups conducted by Child Care Aware® of America with child care teachers in person at child care resource and referral agencies and similar settings. The focus groups were held between December 2016 and February 2017.

Those CCAoA interviewed expressed their desire to achieve and maintain optimum health and wellness for themselves, both for their own well-being as well as to serve as positive examples to those under their care. Three factors were prioritized by participants as essential to creating a health-promoting work environment—money, time, and access.

Approximately 1.3 million individuals are employed in the child care profession, a number all but certain to increase as the need for child care workers is projected to grow about 5 percent over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015).

“As we ask child care providers to do more and more on behalf of children, we have to remember that providers themselves struggle with stress, eating well, and being active,” Krista Scott, senior director of child care health policy at Child Care Aware® of America, said. “More needs to be done to support the workforce where they are, and to do that, we need to listen to them, to understand what they need.”

Findings are focused in four key sections: perceived health status and goals, eating habits of participants, physical activity habits of participants, and barriers to a healthy lifestyle.

“Many of the participants in our groups would like to have access to the tools we know help promote health. However, family child care providers, because of the nature of their work, can’t benefit from traditional workplace wellness programs,” Dr. Fraga said. “A reconceptualization of workplace wellness supports for family child care providers will be game changing.”

For more information on Child Care Aware® of America’s health policy initiatives, visit usa.childcareaware.org. The report on Paths to a Healthier Child Care Workforce is available here.
Media Contact:           Nancy Cook

703-341-4130

About Child Care Aware® of America
Child Care Aware® of America is our nation’s leading voice for child care. CCAoA works with state and local child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs) and other community partners to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. CCAoA leads projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, offer comprehensive training to child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate for child care policies that improve the lives of children and families. To learn more, visit usa.childcareaware.org. Follow them on Twitter @USAChildCare and on Facebook at facebook.com/usachildcare.

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