Furthering the Understanding of the Relationship between Early Learning Environments and Obesity: Next Steps in Preventing Childhood Obesity
Despite efforts and policies to increase physical activity and improve the health of children, childhood obesity remains a prevailing issue with long-term health consequences. The role of early childhood education environments has been shown to be both protective as well as a contributor to obesity. Therefore, the current study aimed to examine the relationship between preschool attendance and obesity. Participants included 4,385 children entering kindergarten in 2014, 2015, and 2016 whose parents submitted a health status survey. A multinomial regression determined that children were at a decreased risk of obesity if they attended a center-based or home-based program compared to children who stayed at home. The number of hours of attendance in a preschool setting was not significantly associated with childhood obesity. Results also revealed that children belonging to a racial minority group, with the exception of Asian/Pacific Islanders, were more likely to be obese as compared to children identified as white. Children living in poverty were also more likely to be obese relative to children not in poverty. Implications for prevention and intervention strategies to address these findings are discussed.