Parents helping parents to fight obesity in preschoolers

2 min read

When fast food joints are on every corner and fruits and vegetables are costly at the local market, how can parents make sure their children eat a healthy diet?

How can low-income parents ensure their children get enough exercise when they don’t have a safe place to play outdoors?

What’s the best way to limit a child’s screen time when trying to do so causes stress and conflict?

These questions, and many more focused on healthy eating and healthy behaviors, will be tackled in parent-to-parent discussions as part of a new obesity prevention program currently in the planning stages at Head Start programs in three Massachusetts cities. Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are collaborating with Head Start parents and staffers in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville to develop the program. The goal is to engage parents and staff as co-leaders in an effort to help parents in low-income communities build the kinds of self-advocacy and life skills they need to promote better nutrition, increased physical activity, and healthier sleep behaviors in their children.

The Communities for Healthy Living (CHL) program—which will reach up to 4,000 children over three years—is led by Kirsten Davison, Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We’re very focused on taking what research says people should do, and finding effective ways to move the science into people’s everyday lives,” Davison said.