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Most Head Start Programs Outperforming Federal Targets

Programs report obesity prevention efforts, including healthy foods and physical activity

MONDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- School-based obesity prevention interventions conducted under the Head Start program are exceeding federal performance targets in terms of healthy eating and gross motor activity, according to a study published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., of Temple University in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a survey of all 1,810 Head Start program directors, of whom 1,583 (87 percent) responded. The programs enrolled 828,707 preschool children.

Nonfat or 1-percent fat milk was served by 70 percent of respondents, while 94 percent reported serving fruit, excluding fruit juice, every day; 97 percent served vegetables other than fried potatoes and 91 percent served both fruit and vegetables every day, the researchers found. In 74 percent of the programs, children had at least 30 minutes a day of structured gross motor activity; in 73 percent, children had at least 30 minutes a day of unstructured gross motor activity; and 89 percent had access to an outdoor play area.

"There is increasing consensus to make greater public investments in early childhood education and to begin childhood obesity prevention efforts early in life," the authors write. "As Head Start and other early childhood programs try to take advantage of their unique position to prevent childhood obesity, the results of this survey provide programs with a list of practices and environments that are potential targets for change and with a baseline against which these changes can be assessed."

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