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FORWARD launches program to increase healthy eating, activity in preschoolers

Fri November 7, 2014

One in four DuPage County kindergartners are overweight or obese. To better support some of DuPage County's youngest and most impressionable residents, FORWARD, with funding from Cadence Health, now part of Northwestern Medicine, will roll out a pilot program to increase healthy eating and physical activity opportunities, and decrease the use of screen time in licensed child care centers serving lower income children and families at risk for obesity.

The goal for the pilot program is to test and eventually spread an evidence-based strategy to improve the health of the children enrolled in child care centers and support centers as they adhere to new state licensing standards. The updated rules, adopted on Aug. 15, 2014, include stricter guidelines for physical activity, nutrition, and screen time for licensed facilities.

"This funding comes at a most opportune time," said Ann Marchetti, FORWARD's Consulting Director. "Childcare facilities will need time and support to develop strategies to adhere to these new rules. FORWARD is poised to help with tools, technical support and resources to help get our youngest residents off to a good start and create lifelong healthy habits."

 The $28,990 in grant funding from Cadence Health will help FORWARD implement the DuPage Healthy Child Care pilot Program.   It will go toward a technical expert to work with five child care centers to assess policies and procedures related to nutrition, physical activity, and screen time; provide grants up to $2,000 to each center to implement changes based on results of the assessments; and develop a model to spread to other daycares across DuPage County.

Other partners in this effort include the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Metropolitan Family Services. For more information, contact Rebecca McFarland, FORWARD Coordinator at Rebecca.mcfarland@dupagehealth.org.