Healthy Early Childhood Coordinator
Get Healthy Philly – Philadelphia Department of Public Health
A healthy start is essential for young children, providing a strong foundation for learning and developing healthy habits for their entire lives. Chronic disease is one of the leading causes of death and in Philadelphia; six of the leading causes of death are related to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and kidney disease (Health of the City Report, 2017). At Get Healthy Philly, the chronic disease prevention division of the Department of Public Health, we work to improve health by creating and supporting environments that promote healthy eating, active living, and are smoke free, as these are the three main strategies that can prevent chronic disease. This work is especially important for our youngest children in Philadelphia and the environments where they spend the most time, home and early child care settings.
This past year, Get Healthy Philly collaborated with First Up to support early childhood programs in building healthy practices. First Up provided professional development and technical assistance to child care centers, highlighting the importance of physical activity. Consultants worked with the centers individually to intentionally incorporate physical activity throughout their day. The cohort consisted of twenty child care centers, with a director and a teacher from each site participating in the project. The director and teacher from each center attended three professional development sessions (3 hours each – one session per month), to review the importance of physical activity, best practices, and various strategies to make different parts of the day active for young children. During the same timeframe, consultants visited each center for a total of ten hours each. One teacher commented, “My experience has been fun and inspiring. I do some yoga already with my class and I always include physical movements daily. I found by attending the fitness classes they have given me a much-needed jolt to freshen things up.” There was continued positive feedback and another participant shared, “The trainings have been fun to go to and informative. I have used some ideas in my classroom. It has made me aware of the importance of movement. Although I use a lot of movement already, I have found other ways to incorporate it. I have used more movement during my small group instruction to help with math and literacy. I would like to start a collection of books for my center that focuses on using movement.”
At the end of the project, the teachers and directors shared their own changes implemented at their centers. These varied widely from change in center-level policies, to making different parts of the day more active, or even creating slight changes to the environment. One center painted their walkway to the entrance of the building to invite children to jump from circle to circle. Another center shared a list of books that encourage movement with the staff (check out a similar list on Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures, which changes monthly). Many shared that they were incorporating new movement ideas into art, circle time, literacy, math, and even into transitions (making for a smoother and happier day). You can start moving with your class or center today with some of the great ideas shared here!
Get Healthy Philly is looking forward to continuing this great work with First Up and a new set of participants this year.