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A Child Wellness Program of the Alabama Partnership for Children

Alabama Healthy Kids, Healthy Future

A Child Wellness Program of the Alabama Partnership for Children

Alabama Healthy Kids, Healthy Future

by Lauren Till

HKHF Logo 2019

Alabama Healthy Kids, Healthy Future

In the state of Alabama, the rate of obesity in 2020 was 39%, one of the highest rates of obesity in the United States (CDC, 2020). While obesity is caused by many factors, quality nutrition and physical activity can reduce the likelihood of developing chronic health conditions later in life. Focusing on the early care and education setting for adopting healthy habits has shown to be effective in promoting healthy eating and physical activity. 

Alabama Healthy Kids, Healthy Future is a health promotion program under the Alabama Partnership for Children with the mission to ensure all young children in child care have a healthy start in life. Through our program, we provide trainings, resources, and opportunities to child care programs throughout the state of Alabama. We also partner with stakeholders to impact state systems changes that ensure all children in child care have equitable access to healthy choices. 

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What is Child Health & Wellness?

The APC understands the importance of health and wellness in early childhood and continuously works with partners on implementing statewide obesity prevention strategies. Recent efforts of the APC include facilitating the Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC), participating in Healthy Child Care, Healthy Communities, and taking part in the Nemours Healthy Kids Healthy Future Technical Assistance Program.

Learn more about obesity prevention strategies in early care and education settings.

Early Care & Education Learning Collaborative

From 2015-2018, the APC served as an implementation partner for the National Early Care and Education Learning Collaboratives (ECELC) program managed by Nemours and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The APC has identified and targeted areas with high rates of obesity for this program, and has (with several partners) trained 106 Early Care and Education (ECE) providers, center- and home-based programs, on how to implement strategies to create environments that foster healthy growth and development. This is a comprehensive approach that focuses primarily on topics related to making changes in physical activity and nutrition policies and procedures. These strategies include in-person trainings on nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding and limited screen time, as well as customized technical assistance to help ECE providers to meet their goals. Through this program, there are many opportunities for providers to network and discuss their goals with each other, and numerous resources and materials are shared with participants.

During 2019, the APC is expanding the reach of the ECELC, made possible by generous support from DHR, by developing new collaboratives to target the Mobile and Montgomery regions where there are high obesity rates. We are also continuing to engage and provide support to ECE providers in the regions surrounding Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties where the APC has formerly provided support, as well as expanding to the Opelika area through a modified version of this program through Nemours’ Healthy Kids, Healthy Future Technical Assistance Program.

Online Go NAPSACC Program

The APC has been awarded a two-year license to implement the online Go NAPSACC Program (Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care) in Alabama. Go NAPSACC is a tool for child care providers to use for assessing their program environment, creating action plans, and implementing changes to meet best practices in multiple areas of child health. All child care programs in Alabama can participate in this online self-assessment and action-planning tool to support the implementation of healthy environments for young children.  

The Areas of Child Health include:  

  • Child Nutrition  
  • Breastfeeding and Infant Feeding  
  • Infant and Child Physical Activity  
  • Outdoor Play and Learning  
  • Screen Time  
  • Farm to ECE  
  • Oral Health 

Over 20,000 children (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden!) have been impacted by Go NAPSACC in Alabama.

GoNAPSACC logo

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Child and Adult Care Food Program Outreach and Promotion

The APC is a strong supporter of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and recognizes the importance of full utilization of the program in Alabama amongst Early Care and Education providers. The APC sees CACFP as a necessary tool to combat child hunger and food insecurity, especially for our youngest and most vulnerable population. We know that child care providers have a powerful impact on children ages zero to five in helping them develop healthy eating habits, and participation in CACFP places ECE programs in a better position to create healthier eating environments and menus. 

Child Nutrition

Nutrition affects the health of young children in many ways. Developing healthy eating habits and creating healthy environments for young children impacts their relationship with food for the rest of their lives. Eating a variety of nutritious foods helps children grow and develop.

Physical Activity

Physical activity helps children build confidence, develop motor skills, and build strength. Being active gives children the practice needed to achieve milestones of motor development. Physical activity also has other physical, mental, and emotional benefits, helping children build the skills that they will use throughout their life.

PALS (Physical Activity Learning Sessions) is an out-of-the-box training for early care and education providers on physical activity best practices. Child care professionals learn strategies for implementing best practices in a sustainable way, including action planning and goal setting.  

This training series promotes interpersonal skills and is often presented in an in-person setting, allowing child care professionals to have rich discussions and take part in interactive activities throughout the training series. 

Over 150 child care providers in Alabama have attended a PALS training. Learn more. 

­Alabama Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Initiative

An important decision that parents should make before their baby arrives is whether they will breastfeed or formula-feed their child. Breastfeeding benefits not only babies but families as well. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies, providing essential nutrients for a child within their first months of life. 

Returning to work after having a baby is often difficult and stressful. Supporting families in their decision to continue breastfeeding is one way Early Care and Education programs can ease the transition of returning to work!  

The APC and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System have teamed up to provide training, technical assistance, tools, and resources through the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Certification program. This program ensures child care providers are equipped to support breastfeeding moms and are trained to properly handle breast milk.  

By ECE programs sharing knowledge and support of breastfeeding with families, they can help improve the health and wellbeing of the children in their care. 

Over 100 child care programs in Alabama have received the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Certification for their program. 

Find a Breastfeeding Friendly child care program near you.

­Farm to Early Care and Education

Farm to Early Care and Education helps to increase access to local foods, garden experiences, and food and farming education for child care programs across Alabama.

Through the Alabama Farm to ECE Coalition, we empower child care providers to successfully source healthy local foods, build gardens, and offer food and agriculture activities that enrich the quality of early learning experiences for children and support the Alabama food economy.  

Learn more about the program at the Alabama Farm to ECE Website.

Seventy-six child care programs and 29 Head Start programs have taken part in a Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative, where they have had the opportunity to receive professional development trainings and implementation funds to start gardening, farming, and nutrition education activities. 

Learn more about Farm to ECE.

Screen Time

While technology can play an important role in our lives, it is vital to limit the amount of time children use it for their health and development. Children that spend less time in front of screens spend more time with their family, do better in school, sleep better, and are more active.

Learn more about evidence-based practices for screen time in child care settings.

Outdoor Play & Learning

Outdoor learning environments are beneficial for the development of young children, supporting the physical, social, and emotional development of young children. Today’s children and families may have limited opportunities to connect with the outdoor environment – early childhood educators can play a large role in providing these opportunities to young children! AL Healthy Kids Healthy Future promotes the development of formal outdoor learning environments in child care center, child care homes, and pre-K classrooms through professional development opportunities and technical assistance.

Learn more about outdoor learning environments.

Child Nutrition

Nutrition affects the health of young children in many ways. Developing healthy eating habits and creating healthy environments for young children impacts their relationship with food for the rest of their lives. Eating a variety of nutritious foods helps children grow and develop. 

Physical Activity

Physical activity helps children build confidence, develop motor skills, and build strength. Being active gives children the practice needed to achieve milestones of motor development. Physical activity also has other physical, mental, and emotional benefits, helping children build the skills that they will use throughout their life. 

PALS (Physical Activity Learning Sessions) is an out-of-the-box training for early care and education providers on physical activity best practices. Child care professionals learn strategies for implementing best practices in a sustainable way, including action planning and goal setting.  

This training series promotes interpersonal skills and is often presented in an in-person setting, allowing child care professionals to have rich discussions and take part in interactive activities throughout the training series. 

Over 150 child care providers in Alabama have attended a PALS training. Learn more. 

­Alabama Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Initiative

An important decision that parents should make before their baby arrives is whether they will breastfeed or formula-feed their child. Breastfeeding benefits not only babies but families as well. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies, providing essential nutrients for a child within their first months of life. 

  • Returning to work after having a baby is often difficult and stressful. Supporting families in their decision to continue breastfeeding is one way Early Care and Education programs can ease the transition of returning to work!  
  • The APC and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System have teamed up to provide training, technical assistance, tools, and resources through the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Certification program. This program ensures child care providers are equipped to support breastfeeding moms and are trained to properly handle breast milk.  
  • By ECE programs sharing knowledge and support of breastfeeding with families, they can help improve the health and wellbeing of the children in their care. 
  • Over 100 child care programs in Alabama have received the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Certification for their program. 

Find a Breastfeeding Friendly child care program near you.

­Farm to Early Care and Education

Farm to Early Care and Education helps to increase access to local foods, garden experiences, and food and farming education for child care programs across Alabama. 

Through the Alabama Farm to ECE Coalition, we empower child care providers to successfully source healthy local foods, build gardens, and offer food and agriculture activities that enrich the quality of early learning experiences for children and support the Alabama food economy.  

Learn more about the program at the Alabama Farm to ECE Website.

Seventy-six child care programs and 29 Head Start programs have taken part in a Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative, where they have had the opportunity to receive professional development trainings and implementation funds to start gardening, farming, and nutrition education activities. 

Learn more about Farm to ECE.

Screen Time

While technology can play an important role in our lives, it is vital to limit the amount of time children use it for their health and development. Children that spend less time in front of screens spend more time with their family, do better in school, sleep better, and are more active.

Learn more about evidence-based practices for screen time in child care settings.

Outdoor Play & Learning

Outdoor learning environments are beneficial for the development of young children, supporting the physical, social, and emotional development of young children. Today’s children and families may have limited opportunities to connect with the outdoor environment – early childhood educators can play a large role in providing these opportunities to young children! AL Healthy Kids Healthy Future promotes the development of formal outdoor learning environments in child care center, child care homes, and pre-K classrooms through professional development opportunities and technical assistance.  

Learn more about outdoor learning environments. 

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Child Health & Nutrition
1-866-711-4025

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