Early Childhood Health & Wellness Curriculum Reports

The NC Center for Health and Wellness announces the release of the Analysis of North Carolina Community College Early Childhood Education Coursework on Nutrition, Health, and Physical Activity as well as the Survey of North Carolina Community College Early Childhood Faculty Coursework on Nutrition, Health, and Physical Activity.

In September 2013, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), in collaboration with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNCF) and the North Carolina Partnership for Children, issued Promoting Healthy Weight for Young Children: A Blueprint for Preventing Early Childhood Obesity in North Carolina. This report detailed the work, with findings that identified key early childhood obesity prevention strategies in three categories of focus: clinical strategies; community and environment strategies; policy strategies.

Among the strategies identified was the need to Provide pre-service and in-service education for child care providers on evidence-based and evidence-informed strategies for physical activity and nutrition. As a way to address this need, NCCHW worked with the Orlena Hawks Puckett Institute in administering surveys to North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges which examined the degree that obesity risks and prevention content is included in the curriculum, as well as, the faculty/administer background in health and nutrition studies. 

The analysis of the coursework was conducted in the fall of 2014 and the faculty/administrator survey conducted in the spring of 2015 by Puckett Institute researchers Drs. Melinda Raab, Carl J. Dunst and Deborah Hamby, as well as, UNC Asheville student Anna Lauren Long.  

Findings of the report also determined a few key points:

  • Thirty courses were identified that included descriptions pertaining to one or more of the 14 indicators.
  • Approximately half of the courses were judged as having a higher likelihood of including health and physical activity content, and seven of these courses were required at all or most of the community colleges. . Four of the six courses were methods courses, but only one required course was a field placement.
  • Nine of 17 courses previously identified as including or likely including content knowledge and experience on health and wellness were taught by one-third to two-thirds of the survey respondents.
  • One-third to two-thirds of the faculty indicated that they included content knowledge or experiences on 11 of 14 health and wellness indicators either quite a bit or a great deal in their courses.
  • The best predictors of including health, nutrition, physical activity, obesity, and wellness content knowledge and experiences in coursework were the number of courses taught, faculty expertise in health and wellness, instructor demonstrations of health and wellness practices, and authentic and self-directed student learning opportunities.
  • Twenty-one of the survey respondents were identified as highly experienced faculty based on a combination of faculty-related variables. Comparisons between those faculty and all other faculty found that the highly experienced faculty included more content knowledge and experiences on infant and child health and nutrition, child physical activity, infant and child obesity, and adult wellness in their coursework compared to other faculty.

Overall the results indicated that community college faculty incorporated health and wellness content knowledge and practice into a number of different courses in a number of different ways. However the analysis of the actual coursework showed that a considerable amount of content knowledge could be included in the existing early childhood curriculum and field placements (labs, practicum, and internships) to include knowledge and practice on infant and child health, nutrition, obesity, and physical activity; and adult wellness.

The reports being released aim to help in the continued efforts to stem the tide of childhood obesity in North Carolina. Just as there is a need to enhance training for health professionals about strategies to promote healthy weight and reduce early childhood overweight and obesity, there is a similar need to do this for childcare professionals.