Physical Activity and Nutrition Practices in Early Childhood Programs in Philadelphia

Good nutrition, physical activity and smoke-free living from the start are the foundation for long term health. It is clear that the impact of healthy environments in the earliest years of a child’s life have ongoing implications for their health and achievement throughout their lives.  Since many children spend time in care outside the home, it is important to understand what their nutrition and activity experiences are like in care. Along with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Get Healthy Philly (GHP), The Health Promotion Council (HPC), Public Health Management Corporation’s Research & Evaluation Group are looking into nutrition and physical activity practices of programs serving young children (from birth to age 5) in the city. They have started by distributing surveys to more than 600 childcare providers, to understand more about their practices related to nutrition breastfeeding, and physical activity. 

This will be a first look at the nutrition and physical environment for the early childcare population in Philadelphia. Informing this work is the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care, GO NAP SACC.  GO NAP SACC works to identify and encourage best practices around nutrition and fitness for young children, and provides professional development and technical assistance to programs to support them in implementing those practices.

 Nutrition-related questions on the survey include topics such as whether snacks and meals are provided for students, what those snack or meals might include, activities supporting mothers in breastfeeding, use of food vendors, availability and quality of kitchen resources and other elements of early childhood well-being. The physical activity questions include some about screen time for children, as well as several about time and space allocated for indoor and outdoor physical play activities. 

There also asks about existing program policies, education, and professional development for staff related to nutrition and activity issues; funding sources; licensing; and accreditations/affiliations, including enrollment in Keystone STARS, or PHLpreK.

Results of the survey will provide baseline information about what licensed providers (of all ranges of quality care) are doing currently. That knowledge will indicate whether there are steps city agencies can take to provide education or other supports for physical activity or healthy nutrition practices to local providers. 

If you are a licensed Philadelphia-based provider of early childhood services for children ages 0 to 5, you may have received an online or hard copy survey to complete. If you did, please respond to the survey until February 15th. If you have not, but would like to share your information, please email MaryEllen.Mannix@Phila.gov

More resources, including Physical Activity Patterns of Inner-city Elementary School Children, and a Data Brief on obesity among Philly schools children, are available on the Get Healthy Philly website. Resources are also available on the HPC website, and at NAP SACC.