Every child deserves to grow up healthy. Unfortunately some experts believe that, for the first time, the current generation of children may have shorter lives than their parents. Recognizing that Washington’s future depends on the health of our children, Governor Jay Inslee launched the Healthiest Next Generation (HNG) Initiative to help make our next generation the healthiest ever. The goal is to help our children maintain a healthy weight, enjoy active lives and eat and drink healthfully by making changes in early learning settings, schools and communities. The areas of focus for early learning environments include:
- Breastfeeding: Supporting breastfeeding moms and babies by making them welcome and meeting their needs.
- Healthy Eating: Serving healthier food and beverages in early learning settings. This includes serving lower fat milk to children over age 2, serving a wider variety of fruit and vegetables, serving more whole grains, and fewer processed and high fat meats, potatoes and baked goods.
- Physical Activity: Increasing opportunities for children to be physically active throughout the day. Striving to meet the national best practice recommendations of 120 minutes per day for preschoolers and 90 minutes per day for toddlers as well as more “tummy time” for infants.
- Screen Time Reduction: Limiting screen time to no more than 1 hour per week of educational, commercial free programming.
Cross Agency Team and Focus Environments
The Department of Early Learning (DEL) serves the early learning settings including: child care, preschools, family, friend and neighbor care, and before and after school programs.
- The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) primarily serves Kindergarten through 12th grade schools.
- The Department of Health (DOH) serves our larger communities.
States that are making progress in improving the health of children have found that there is not one solution but many solutions, by many people, in the places where children spend their time--- in early learning settings, schools, and communities. The Healthiest Next Generation Initiative engages businesses, community leaders and state agencies to take actions that support children’s health. The Governor created an innovative public-private partnership called the Governor’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation. This high-level policy will advise the Governor and his staff on strategic direction.
Current Initiative Action Steps for DEL
- Support comprehensive breastfeeding policies in early learning settings
- Promote and expand programs that work in early learning settings statewide
- Provide toolkits with strategies to ensure that all children are active and consume nutritious food and clean water in early learning facilities
- Create a mentoring program to help early learning teachers and caregivers implement these strategies.
- Promote healthful eating and active living goals in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) Performance Standards.
- Develop a system to award STARS hours to early learning teachers and caregivers for completing the online obesity prevention course.
Initiative Action Steps for DEL for the Next Three Years
- Update the rules and regulations for licensed child care centers to address the latest version of national standards on nutrition, physical activity and screen time and include required training for providers (initial, ongoing, and professional development) on these topics.
- Increase training on nutrition, physical activity and screen time in Early Achievers.
- Fund regional Early Learning Collaboratives to help increase the capacity of licensed child care centers to meet updated rules and regulations.