Center-based child care can improve children’s health and development
A new study from Canada has found that children who attended daycare between the ages of 1 and 4 had a lower body mass index (BMI) and were less likely to be overweight or obese. later in childhood than children who had non-parental children. child care at home or provided by parents or nannies. These associations were stronger for children from low-income families.
Although more research is needed, our findings suggest that center-based child care may help to even out health disadvantages related to socioeconomic status of children from low-income families.
Michaela Kucab, graduate student at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and the University of Toronto, both in Canada
Kucab will present the results online at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE, the American Society for Nutrition’s flagship annual meeting held June 14-16.
“We hope this work will bring much-needed attention to the prioritization of center-based child care while encouraging future research on the impact of center-based child care on growth and other important health outcomes. health and development in children,” said the study’s lead author, Jonathon Maguire, MD, of St. Michael’s Hospital.
Previous studies assessing the relationship between child care attendance and obesity have primarily focused on comparing parental care with non-parental child care settings.
“Given the increase in the number of dual-income families and the fact that many families are faced with making decisions about child care, our work aimed to assess non-parental child care arrangements” , said Kucab. “We hope our findings can help parents and policy makers advocate for and prioritize the best child care environments for children.”
The researchers analyzed data collected from a large, multicultural sample of healthy Canadian children using the Toronto-based The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) primary care research network. They compared the BMI of children aged 4 to 10 for those who had attended center daycare between ages 1 and 4 versus those who had attended other non-parental childcare settings.
“One of the benefits of using data from TARGetKids! is that it started in 2008 and is still ongoing, whereas many previous studies have used data collected decades ago,” Kucab said. “It may have allowed us to grasp the effects of the many improvements implemented by modern child care programs.”
The detailed questionnaire data collected in TARGetKids! allowed researchers to take into account many variables and explore important factors such as socioeconomic status and the number of hours per week each child spends in child care.
Researchers found that children who attended full-time daycare had a 0.11 lower BMI at ages 4 and 7 and were less likely to be overweight or obese at age 4 than children who attended off-center daycare . Children from low-income families who attended full-time daycare had a lower BMI of 0.32 and were less likely to be overweight or obese at age 10 than those who attended off-center daycare.
“Our findings make sense because health behaviors are developed in early childhood and can be influenced by the environments children encounter,” Kucab said. “There may be underlying factors and childcare practices that differ between childcare arrangements that help explain effects on childhood growth.”
For example, child care centers in Canada and the United States must follow nutrition guidelines and adhere to other health behavior guidelines related to physical activity and rest. They also have Certified Early Childhood Educators who oversee childcare practices and ensure programs provide routines suitable for growing children. While these factors may contribute to the results, the researchers note that the study was observational and not designed to assess cause and effect relationships, adding that clinical trials would be needed to confirm causation.
The researchers are now extending their work by investigating the relationship between early childhood center child care and subsequent nutritional risk, food intake and eating behaviors. They are also working to implement a clinical trial, called Nutrition Recommendation Intervention Trials in Children’s Health Care (NuRISH), which will leverage the methods used by TARGet Kids! to assess whether connecting families with center-based child care through the primary health care system can improve the physical, mental, nutritional, and developmental health of children from low-income families. The researchers say the trial results could be used to inform policy decisions about the use of center-based childcare as an intervention to improve health and productivity across the lifespan.
American Society of Nutrition