Professional Development

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Combating Childhood Obesity Through Afterschool Programing

In the United States, approximately one in three children ages two to 19 is overweight or obese. Organizations such as the Healthy Out-Of-School Time (HOST) Coalition, RTI International (RTI) and the National Afterschool Association (NAA) have implemented standards to promote a healthy lifestyle among our nation's young people.

In 2011, the HOST Coalition created its healthy lifestyle standards for afterschool programs. As afterschool and out-of-school programs provide the ideal venue to combat childhood obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, NAA has since adopted these standards.

The NAA Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards provide practical, comprehensive guidance for afterschool programs. These standards describe the ideal components of snacks, meals and physical activity, and suggest ways to support and sustain a healthy environment.

Many other programs and institutions have also adopted these standards. RTI assists these organizations by serving as a third-party evaluator to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, another nonprofit member of the HOST Coalition. The leaders of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation have praised RTI's efforts based on its rigorous scientific evaluation process.

By 2020, these standards should reach more than 5.5 million children. Organizations such as the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association have already committed to adopting organization-specific adaptations of the standards.

The RTI team says, "Our guidelines go beyond telling programs what food to serve or what active games to play. They help programs make and sustain healthy changes by defining standards for staff training, parent engagement, staff role modeling and facilities. That's what makes this exciting."

Click here for the complete set of healthy eating and physical activity standards as created by the HOST Coalition and adopted by NAA.

Written by Lisa Stickler, staff writer for AfterSchool Today magazine.

Photo courtesy of RTI International.