On May 24th, directors from early childcare education centers located in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville came together to be celebrated by Nemours Florida Prevention Initiative (FPI) and the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF). These directors participate in the Healthy Habits for Life (HHL) initiative, which has received funding support from WPHF since 2011. Several of the directors have participated in the HHL initiative since its inception. In total, there are 29 childcare sites participating in the HHL program which uses the 5-2-1-Almost None message and tool kit to create custom health and wellness policies based on best practices for childcare centers. Policies are geared towards changing the culture of centers so healthy choices are built into the everyday lives of children, their families and staff. Guidance and support from the directors is key as they model best practice behaviors and set the tone of the center.
The agenda for the celebration focused on achievements made during the initiative; reflections from the FPI Program Manager Kelly Rogers; awards and recognitions; and feedback from the directors on opportunities, challenges and moving forward.
Ms. Rogers noted within the first cohort of childcare sites, over 150 health and wellness policy statements were created and assessed, and 90% of those policies have been sustained throughout the program. 93% of the second cohort sites have sustained their policies; and of the third and last cohort, 84% have sustained their policies – they are on their way to catching up to the first and second cohorts.
All sites were recognized for their involvement in the initiative. Several sites received awards for their achievements: Breastfeeding-Friendly Child Care Facility, Most Courageous Policy Statement, Greatest Family Engagement, Outstanding Physical Activity & Education Program, Promotion of Staff Wellness, Outstanding VPK Class and Most Innovative. During the feedback session, directors expressed the benefits of connecting and learning from each other during Learning Sessions, and the value of working with partners such as Nemours and WPHF to address barriers to implementation of the policies.
As Dr. Lloyd Werk noted during the close of the program, over the course of the initiative, spanning 4 ½ years, 4,400 children have been positively impacted by the 5-2-1-Almost None message and policies, and over 300 directors and staff have participated in changing the culture of their centers.
Moving forward, WPHF will continue to support the childcare center directors, staff, the children they serve and their families as they continue the important work of building healthy habits in some of our youngest community members. WPHF staff will also help connect the centers to Winter Park Consortium elementary schools to help bridge the transition of their children into the elementary schools through Healthy School Teams.