Early Childhood



The Early Childhood (EC) working group is a team of EC researchers and leaders committed to improving the health of young children through improved research and practice in out‐of‐home care settings. The working group is a collaborative effort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research (HER) and Active Living Research (ALR) programs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN) and Physical Activity Policy Research Network (PAPRN). The HER national program office, based at Duke University and the University of Minnesota, serves as the coordinating body.

Membership in the working group is open to all with an interest in obesity prevention research and evaluation in the childcare/early childhood setting, including on topics related to nutrition, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors. The primary population of interest is children ages 0 to 5 years in a variety of out‐of‐home settings, including child care (both centers and homes), preschool, pre‐Kindergarten, and Head Start.


The mission of the EC working group is to build a network of researchers and leaders from academia, non‐profit organizations, government, and other funding agencies to increase the amount and quality of research and evaluation in the area of childhood obesity prevention in the early care and education setting, and to support and facilitate the development and implementation of evidence‐informed policies. Special emphasis is placed on equity and addressing the needs of the lower‐income and racial/ethnic minority populations at highest risk for obesity.


Key Activities and Findings

Overall Goal: To bring an increased focus on nutrition, physical activity, and childhood obesity prevention research and evaluation in ECE.

ShorterTerm Goals

  1. Build a network of researchers and leaders with an interest in EC
    1. Recruit and support new investigators through collaboration in working groups, mentored leadership, building connections, and other opportunities
    2. Create opportunities for learning and collaboration (e.g., commissioned research projects, grants, publications, presentations)
    3. Share information and resources among members of the workgroup (e.g., tools, methods, intervention materials)
  1. Develop 2‐4 working group subgroups and recruit subgroup leaders
    1. Commit to a collaborative project for each subgroup
    2. Identify funding source (if appropriate) for conducting the collaborative project
    3. Engage members of the subgroups in the collaborative project
    4. Subgroup progress to be reported at a national conference
    5. Promote funding for EC obesity prevention research and evaluation

LongerTerm Goals:

  1. Identify gaps in the EC knowledge base
  2. Clarify a research agenda in the EC setting to facilitate desirable changes in nutrition, physical activity, and overall child development
  3. Generate interest in research in nutrition and physical activity in EC, by documenting and making the case for its relevance to other aspects of EC
  4. Build evidence to support changes to EC policies, environments, and practices
  5. Increase funding for EC research and evaluation
  6. Increase the number of EC researchers
  7. Increase the amount and quality of EC research
  8. Effect change in national and state policies to improve nutrition and physical activity standards in EC
  9. Have EC be a setting included in NCCOR’s Catalogue of Surveillance Systems (http://tools.nccor.org/css/)


Download the ECE Overview document for more information about the work group

Click on the dates below to view recordings of each presentation. Click on the presentation title to access PPT slides.


July 2016: The Smart Moms Study’ (Brooke Nezami) and ‘Let’s Work Together Towards Children’s Nutrition’: Building a Bridge between Childcare Providers and Parents for Promoting Child Health (Dipti Diev)

August 2016: Changes in Obesity Rates for Young Children: Interpretations Using Different Data Sources and Statistical Methods (Asheley Skinner)

September 2016: The Role of Responsive Parenting in Pediatric Obesity Prevention’ (Jennifer Savage Williams)

October 2016: ‘Teacher-Led Preschool Physical Activity Interventions’ (Sofiya Alhassan)

November 2016: ‘Marketing for Baby and Toddler Food and Drinks: What is it Teaching Parents?’ (Jennifer Harris) and  Health Equity in Early Childhood Education’ (Krista Scott of ChildCare Aware of America)

December 2016: “State Policies Governing Early Care and Education Programs”


January 2017: ‘Advancing Early Childhood Development from Science to Scale’ (Maureen Black)

February 2017: Young Minds and the Media’ (Yolanda Reid Chassiakos)

March 2017: ‘Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach’ (Rafael Perez-Escamilla)

May 2017: Using Systems Science to Engage Communities in Obesity Prevention: A Focus on Community Coalitions(Christina Economos and Erin Hennessy)

June 2017: ‘Physical Activity During the Early Years: Guideline Development from a Canadian Perspective’ (Brian Timmons) and ‘Physical Activity for Americans: Plans for Recommendations for Young Children’ (Russell Pate)

July 2017:  Healthy Eating Research’s Early Childhood Learning Collaborative (Megan Lott and Emily Welker)

August 2017: EAT (Ecological Approach to) Family Style Dining: Responsive Feeding in Childcare (Dipti Diev) + Discussion of Working Group Mission & Goals

September 2017: Research, Collaboration, and Funding for Obesity Prevention in the ECE Setting (Caree J. Cartwright)


EC Working Group CoChairs

Natasha Frost, JD, Staff Attorney, Public Health Law Center

Dipti Dev, PhD, MS, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


For more information, please contact:

Megan Lott, MPH, RDN

Senior Associate, Policy and Research, RWJF Healthy Eating Research

Duke University



ALR: www.activelivingresearch.org

HER: www.healthyeatingresearch.org

NOPREN: www.nopren.org

PAPRN: http://paprn.wustl.edu

Revised: 07-16