By Anne McHugh

The National League of Cities has recognized Boston and the Boston Public Health Commission for completing key health and wellness goals for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties. This program is a major component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s comprehensive Let’s Move! initiative, which is dedicated to solving the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.

Boston received a gold medal in the “Start Early, Stay Smart” category, for the Commission’s Boston Healthy Childcare Initiative, which support early childcare programs in achieving the five goals of Let’s Move Child Care. Since August 2012, 138 staff from 44 center- and family-based childcare programs have attended a two-part workshop series to learn how to serve healthier foods and beverages, provide active playtime, and cut down on ‘screen time.’  The Initiative also incorporates information on how childcare programs can support breastfeeding mothers at their sites. 

After completing the training, staff from each program complete a self-assessment checklist to identify areas in which they can improve policies and practices, and develop an action plan to achieve these changes.  Programs receive technical assistance and incentives from Commission staff to help achieve their goals.  Topic areas that commonly arise for improvement are incorporating more whole grains into meals; switching to 1% milk for children over age 2; cutting back on processed foods; making water more available, including during outdoor playtime; structuring indoor active play opportunities during inclement weather; and working with parents to bring in healthier foods for birthdays and other celebrations.

The Healthy Childcare Initiative works with an advisory committee of childcare program, state agency, academic experts, and parent representatives to provide input on development and implementation of best practices.

Recognizing Boston’s multiple initiatives to get kids more physically active, the City also received a gold medal in the “Active Kids at Play” category.  These have included a needs assessment of playspaces, developing an action plan, and launching at least three proven policies, programs, or initiatives from the action plan to continue to increase access to physical activity.

Boston also received a bronze medal in the “Smart Servings for Students” category, recognizing its success in having at least 60% of public school students participate in the School Breakfast Program.

And three more awards for mapping all playspaces, completing a needs assessment of playspaces, developing an action plan, and launching at least three proven policies, programs, or initiatives from the action plan to continue to increase access to physical activity.

Anne McHugh is the director of BPHC’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division.

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