Best practices and barriers to obesity prevention in head start: Differences between director and teacher perceptions

Academic Article


  • Introduction Practices and barriers to promoting healthy eating and physical activity at Head Start centers may influence children's energy balance behaviors. We examined differences between directors' and teachers' perspectives on best practices and barriers to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in Head Start centers. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study of directors (n = 23) and teachers (n = 113) at 23 Head Start centers participating in the baseline assessment of the Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration study. Participants completed surveys about practices and barriers to promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Multilevel regression models examined differences between director and teacher responses. Results More than half of directors and teachers reported meeting most best practices related to nutrition and physical activity; few directors or teachers (< 25%) reported conducting physical activity for more than 60 minutes a day, and less than 40% of teachers helped children attend to satiety cues. Significantly more directors than teachers reported meeting 2 nutrition-related best practices: "Teachers rarely eat less healthy foods (especially sweets, salty snacks, and sugary drinks) in front of children" and "Teachers talk to children about trying/enjoying new foods" (P < .05). No barrier to healthy eating or physical activity was reported by more than 25% of directors or teachers. Significantly more teachers than directors reported barriers to healthy eating, citing lack of food service staff support, limited time, and insufficient funds (P < .05). Conclusion More barriers to healthy eating were reported than were barriers to physical activity indicating that more support may be needed for healthy eating. Differences between responses of directors and teachers may have implications for future assessments of implementation of best practices and barriers to implementation related to nutrition and physical activity in early care and education centers.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 25381605
  • Author List

  • Byrd-Williams C; Dooley EE; Sharma SV; Chuang RJ; Butte N; Hoelscher DM
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • 12