YMCA’s National Role In Combatting Childhood Obesity

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– Submitted by the YMCA of the USA

twokidsunAs highlighted by the Afterschool Alliance’s recent report, the number of children participating in afterschool programs continues to grow. So, too, does the need to ensure that afterschool programs are fostering opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.

With the ever-growing childhood obesity epidemic — there’s a national movement underway to encourage a healthier lifestyle in children outside of school hours – and the YMCA has taken on a pivotal role in this space – even influencing some of the first legislation enacted around issue.

It is through the Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives program where the Y is able to create such change working in collaboration with other community leaders to ensure that healthy living is within reach to the kids in those communities.

The Y has been instrumental in influencing:

· The first legislation of its kind: The California State Senate passed legislation creating a voluntary recognition program for afterschool programs implementing healthy eating and physical activity standards that were initially created and implemented by the HOST coalition, of which YMCA of the USA was a founding partner.

· 15,698 positive transformations in early childhood and afterschool programs across the country

· 470 changes in early childhood or afterschool programs to ensure food and beverages offered are healthy

· 410 changes in schools to ensure that food and beverages sold to children before, during and after the school day are healthier

· 373 changes in schools that have helped incorporate physical activity before, during and after school hours

· 101 schools to expand participation in the USDA free or reduced breakfast or afterschool snack program

kidseatinghealthyThese changes are rooted in the Y’s incorporation of a set of Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards into all Y childcare and afterschool programs which:

· Establish a minimum of expected physical activity for children of different ages enrolled in Y programs;

· Define food and beverages offerings, including designating water as the primary beverage during snack times and offering fruits and vegetables as snack options;

· Limit the amount of screen time (watching TV, playing video games, using computers);

· Encourage breastfeeding of infants in Y care; and

· Commit Ys to conducting parent education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

The standards are based in part on years of research supported by collaborations with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), University of Massachusetts at Boston, the Healthy Out of School Time Coalition (HOST) and the National Institute for Out of School Time (NIOST). Through these collaborations, the Y has learned the most effective ways to create healthy environments in out-of-school time settings – and has been influential in encouraging healthy lifestyles in children across the country.

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