Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Healthy Habits: Afterschool Programs

Evidence is mounting that afterschool programs are an effective tool in the effort to prevent childhood obesity in Minnesota and nationwide, according to a household survey conducted by Shugoll Research for the Afterschool Alliance. A special report from the survey, released today, Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, explores parents’ views about the role afterschool programs play in improving the health and physical fitness of their children. Findings are based on responses collected for America After 3PM from 30,000 U.S. households, including 253 in Minnesota.

In the survey, most Minnesota parents (79 percent in Minnesota and 72 percent nationally) report that their child’s afterschool program provides children with beverages, snacks and/or meals, and 82 percent in Minnesota are satisfied that the food served is healthy. Similarly, a strong majority of parents (82 percent) agree that afterschool programs should offer opportunities for physical activity, and 91 percent of Minnesota parents with a child in an afterschool program report that the program does just that. The great majority of parents approve of what programs are providing, with 84 percent of parents in the state saying they are satisfied with the amount of physical activity offered and 89 percent with the variety of that physical activity. More Minnesota-specific findings are available on the Afterschool Alliance’s website.

“Afterschool programs are a proven, but sometimes underappreciated, weapon in the battle against childhood obesity and physical inactivity,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “We’ve known for a long time that afterschool, before-school and summer programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working parents. These new data make clear that they also do a tremendous amount to help keep kids healthy, now and for the future. The healthy habits afterschool programs help instill can last a lifetime.”

Key national findings from Kids on the Move:
·         Older youth are less likely than younger children to attend an afterschool program that offers food and less likely to be physically active in their program.
·         Providing healthy food during afterschool programs is especially important to low-income, African-American and Hispanic parents.
·         Opportunities for physical activity are important to African-American, Hispanic and low-income parents.
·         Many parents are unaware that standards for healthy eating and physical activity exist for afterschool programs. The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards recommend best practices related to food and activity, including at least 30 minutes of morning or afterschool program time for physical activity (60 minutes for a full day program).

Kids on the Move offers recommendations for making afterschool programs even more effective in promoting health, including ensuring that providers are aware of policies and programs that support a healthier environment and doing more to increase awareness of the HEPA Standards.
In October 2014, the Afterschool Alliance released findings from America After 3PM, revealing a dramatic increase in participation in afterschool over the past decade, from 6.5 million to 10.2 million children. The survey also documented a vast and growing unmet demand for afterschool, with the parents of 19.4 million children reporting that they would enroll their child in a program, if one were available.

Kids on the Move is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. America After 3PM is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, The Robert Bowne Foundation and the Samueli Foundation.

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