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Partnership Roles in Early-Learning Providers' Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Programs: A Qualitative Study

Angela M. Coppola, Allison L. Voils, Janet Gafkjen & David J. Hancock

ajhe cover May June 2019

The associations between children’s physical activity (PA) and health outcomes, such as cognitive development, physical health, and social and emotional well-being, have been reported. Furthermore, fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Because of these associations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created guidelines for children’s engagement in PA and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Specifically, children should engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA every day and consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

Despite the well-documented benefits of children’s healthy eating and PA behaviors and the national recommendations, a majority of children in the United States are not achieving these recommendations. In Indiana specifically, most children are not achieving the recommended amounts of PA or fruit and vegetable intake. Only approximately 25% of Indiana children achieve the recommended amount of PA, and approximately 40% of Indiana children report consuming fruits and vegetables less than once per day.

Programs in early-learning settings have been implemented to address these behaviors. PA programs in early-learning settings can moderately affect PA levels, with significant positive effects on PA levels evident in activities led by teachers, conducted outdoors, and/or that are unstructured. There is also evidence that these programs improve motor skills. Comprehensive healthy eating or nutrition programs (ie, programs that include exposure to healthy foods and nutrition education) in early-learning settings can influence physical health and increase fruit and vegetable intake

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