Steps for Change: Creating a Plan to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Early care and education (ECE) settings are a critical places for obesity prevention efforts. When healthy eating and physical activity habits are acquired during the preschool years, they can last a lifetime.

Steps for Obesity Prevention in ECE Settings
As you plan your strategy for early childhood obesity prevention in your community, it is advised to work through the following steps in order. Before working through the steps, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the Spectrum of Opportunities for obesity prevention in the ECE setting.

Step 1: Assess Partnerships

Partnerships — also called collaborations and coalitions — are the cornerstone of any successful endeavor to make changes within ECE settings. A partnership looking to address obesity in child care and early education settings should include key stakeholders, policy makers and advocates from diverse groups that support children, including:

  • state and local health departments
  • child care agencies (including the child care regulatory agency)
  • departments of education
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and sponsoring organizations
  • nonprofit organizations
  • vocational schools, colleges and universities with early care and education-related degree/certificate programs
  • parents of children in ECE
  • ECE providers (family-home and center-based)

Most states have ongoing obesity prevention initiatives with established state-level partnerships, as well as a variety of ECE setting–focused collaborations, particularly through their child care agencies. A foundation for partnerships to address childhood obesity in ECE is likely already in place within your state — it’s just a matter of bringing these different groups together if they have not yet found connections.

Get a clear picture of who’s who from both the ECE system and public health arenas by completing the Partnership Assessment Worksheet.

Step 2: Assess Efforts to Date

Once partners and stakeholders have been engaged, they can help provide information needed to capture current and previous obesity prevention and health efforts targeting early care and education (ECE) settings. This information will help determine what is working well, identify gaps or areas for improvement, and identify lessons learned.

Identify all ECE obesity prevention opportunities for children in your community by completing a Spectrum of Opportunities Assessment Worksheet.

Step 3: Create a State Profile

Use the information gathered from the Partnership Assessment Worksheet and Spectrum of Opportunities Assessment Worksheet to create a State Profile document for stakeholders. The State Profile Template is designed to help package all of the relevant information needed as background for considering whether to pursue new opportunities and how to strengthen existing efforts.

Obtain background on childhood obesity prevention efforts made in your state by completing a State Profile Worksheet.

Step 4: Determine Feasibility of Opportunities

At any given point in time, a variety of factors will influence whether a specific opportunity is truly a viable option to pursue. With input from your partners, assess the feasibility of pursuing new (or strengthen existing) opportunities based on a common set of factors. Use the Spectrum of Opportunities Rating Worksheet to aid in this assessment.

Taken together, the information gathered to complete the two Spectrum worksheets should help answer several key questions, such as:

  • What are the gaps in current policies and programs?
  • Are there fixed timelines or funding cycles that make an opportunity timely to pursue now? (For example, state licensing regulations may be up for review on a specific schedule, such as every five years.)
  • What resources are currently available or might be reasonably obtained in the near future? Is there one opportunity for change that requires the least amount of resources but may provide a big yield?
  • What is the political will in your state? Are some opportunities off-limits from the standpoint of current political and agency leadership?
  • Are key stakeholders more interested in making improvements focused on one specific area, such as breastfeeding, or are they willing to engage in changes that encompass nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding and screen time reduction comprehensively?

Step 5: Develop an Action Plan and Logic Model

Developing an action plan means turning ideas raised during the assessment process into reality. Action plans keep you on track and focused by:

  • Identifying objectives and timelines
  • Providing guidelines for achieving objectives
  • Monitoring progress and successes
  • Giving clear direction of tasks
  • Setting expectations for outcomes

It also identifies resources and responsible individuals, groups, or organizations and describes how to evaluate the activity.

Developing an action plan in concert with partners and stakeholders is a helpful way to solidify activities and identify personnel and financial resources which are important to initiating change in the early care and education arena.

Complete an action plan for your childhood obesity prevention efforts in early care and education settings.