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Promoting Healthy Weight and Development in Early Childhood

A collaboration of Oregon's state and local public health agencies

The need for a public health agenda to promote healthy weight and development in early childhood emerged as a top priority from Oregon’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) leadership retreat in 2010. Following the retreat, state and local public health MCH leaders framed recommendations for preventing and reducing childhood obesity.

These recommendations are based on the 10 essential services of public health, and are grounded in primary prevention, the social determinants of health, and a life course perspective. To slow the obesity epidemic and prevent obesity before it starts for our children and generations to come, policy, systems and environmental changes, along with upstream, evidence-based interventions are needed.

Key Facts

  • Many children are already carrying too much weight at a very young age. In Oregon, nearly 15 percent of children aged 2–5 years who participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program are obese.
  • Children who are overweight or obese are at risk of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk for chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, as well as decreasing social and emotional wellbeing and increasing the risk for depression.
  • Today’s children are projected to have shorter life expectancies than their parents or grandparents due to overweight and obesity.

What influences childhood obesity?

Obesity is a complex health issue, influenced by our genes, the social and physical environments in which we live, work, learn and play, and early life influences during the critical periods of preconception, pregnancy and early childhood.

What supports healthy weight and development in childhood?

Obesity prevention must start very early in life, even during preconception, using a lifecourse approach. Factors that support healthy weight and development in childhood and prevent obesity:

  • Not using tobacco during pregnancy
  • Control of diabetes during pregnancy
  • A healthy pre-pregnancy weight
  • Healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Healthy birth weight (not too low and not too high)
  • Breastfeeding
  • Appropriate introduction of foods complementary to breastfeeding
  • Parenting and feeding practices that promote healthy behaviors
  • Healthy diet, including a variety of fruits, vegetables and no sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Daily physical activity, including active play
  • Limited or no screen time
  • Health-promoting practices in places where children spend time, such as early child care and education

Healthy Weight and Development Publications

Oregon Healthy Growth Survey, 2012 Report (pdf)

This survey provides an important opportunity to understand and address childhood obesity in Oregon, and identify populations at greatest risk. It is the first to present body mass index (BMI) assessments for first, second and third grade students attending Oregon elementary schools. This information will serve as a baseline and be used to inform evidence-based prevention strategies designed to ensure healthy growth for all Oregon children.

Promoting Healthy Weight and Development in Early Childhood (pdf)

This brochure was produced in collaboration with Oregon's state and local public health agencies. It outlines key facts about childhood obesity and what factors influence healthy weight in children, along with potential strategies for action.