Starting Young Child Care Center Initiative

The Maine Center for Public Health and Maine Harvard Prevention Research Center are very pleased to have received a grant award from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to further expand a pilot initiative called “Starting Young in Maine”. This initiative has been pilot tested in 2006-07 with the generous help of Emily Rines Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition and the York County Head Start/Early Head Start program. Many children are developing patterns within their families that may put them at risk for excess weight in later childhood and adolescence. Childcare providers can potentially impact the epidemic by promoting gradual, feasible changes in these patterns among children and families.  The potential of childcare providers as drivers and supporters of that process has broad empirical and theoretical basis. 

Why “Starting Young”? - Early childhood is an ideal time to focus on change!

  • Prevention programs prior to age six are essential to altering trends in adolescence & adulthood
  • Young families are often still forming or replicating childrearing practices
  • Children’s behavior patterns start during this time period
  • Early education setting is the workplace for many who may be working on their own nutrition and physical activity issues and modeling those behaviors to children.

Objectives for expansion of “Starting Young”

Building on lessons learned from the pilot, we have engaged eight Healthy Maine Partnerships to help us further develop and refine this program within 32 Head Start sites/classrooms. Starting Young is also an excellent opportunity for HMP’s and Head Start to link up with pediatricians and family practices participating in the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative [another initiative of the MCPH] who are extremely motivated around the issue of youth overweight.

Goals for "Starting Young" include:

  • Develop assessment tools for use by Head Start Centers with their HMP to determine opportunities to enhance existing work, increase awareness and for improvement of physical activity and nutrition policies and programs for staff, children and families.
  • Working closely with the I Am Moving—I Am Learning initiative already universally adopted by Head Start in Maine, develop and distribute evidence-based strategies and appropriate resources/tools that Head Start Centers can use to address assessment findings.
  • Develop an evaluation template to be used by HMP’s and Head Start Centers for collecting feedback and / or data.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to Healthy Maine Partnerships on implementation and analysis of the assessment tool and appropriate strategies.
  • To identify areas for collaboration with local pediatricians and other clinicians to support Head Start efforts to improve physical activity and nutrition.
  • [The potential exists to add physicians and interested community members to Health Advisory Committees at each site.]


Implementation in September 2007, training in early November, assessments & surveys complete by end November, initial results presented to Head Start in January 2008, post evaluation April/May and Final Report July 2008,  and the Starting Young Interview Report April 2009.