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Head Start Programs May Prevent Obesity Among Low Income Preschoolers

1/12/2015
​​​​​​​​ Low-income children enrolled in the federally funded Head Start preschool program may experience beneficial effects on developmental and physical outcomes. According to a study in the February 2015 Pediatrics, “Changes in Body Mass Index Associated With Head Start Participation,” (published online Jan. 12), preschool-aged children who entered Head Start with an unhealthy weight status experienced a significantly improved and healthier body mass index (BMI) by kindergarten age than children in comparison groups being seen for pediatric well-child checks. The comparison groups included children in a primary care health system (both receiving and not receiving Medicaid). Additionally, children who entered Head Start underweight experienced a greater BMI increase compared to the comparison groups. Study authors conclude that at the end of the observation period, obese or overweight Head Start children were significantly less overweight than the children in the comparison groups. The environment provided by Head Start programs may contribute to prevention of obesity, along with improved social and academic outcomes.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults (www.aap.org).



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