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 setting where children spend time. 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 Early Childhood (EC) working group is to build a multi-disciplinary network of researchers and leaders from academia, non‐profit organizations, government, and other funding agencies to increase the amount and quality of research and best practices in promoting optimal physical and cognitive development through the promotion of healthy eating, and to support and facilitate the development and implementation of evidence‐informed policies. Special emphasis is placed on equity and addressing the needs of lower‐income and racial/ethnic minority populations at highest risk for low diet quality and/or obesity.

Using an online group of multidisciplinary researchers, advocates, government employees, Extension professionals, practitioners and policy makers, the Early Childhood working group will support nationwide learning collaboratives that focus on:

  1. Increasing EC professionals’ effectiveness in addressing issues in the area of nutrition, physical activity, child development, and childhood obesity prevention research, policy and practice by providing a platform for collaboration and information sharing.
  2. Foster creativity and innovation in research and advocacy efforts by utilizing shared, objective methods to evaluate outcomes, ensuring efforts are not being duplicated, and encouraging collaborations on research or advocacy projects.
  3. Advance knowledge-base and quality of EC research with special focus on low-income and racial/ethnic minority populations.

The goals of the Early Childhood working group are (1) to develop and maintain learning collaborative(s) to support professional development of researchers and (2) to provide a platform for information sharing and networking in order to advance science in the area of nutrition, physical activity, child development, and childhood obesity prevention research and practice in early care and education, home, community, and clinical settings.

Key Activities and Findings

Activities and Objectives:

  1. Establish a research base to support changes to EC policies, environments, and practices in early childhood education, home, community, and clinical settings.
    1. Identify gaps in the early childhood knowledge base as it relates to healthy eating, nutrition, childhood obesity, and optimal child development.
    2. Build evidence to support changes to EC policies, environments, and practices in ECE, home, community, and clinical settings.
    3. Increase the amount and quality of EC research (increased grants and publications).
    4. Share information about funding for EC obesity prevention research and evaluation
  1. Build a vibrant, multidisciplinary network and support ongoing professional development within the EC community.
    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).
    4. Share information on research with minority, low income populations across childcare contexts (family childcare vs. center, rural)
  1. Maintain a Nationwide Learning Collaborative.
    1. Support collaborative projects developed by the learning collaborative for continued learning and professional development.
    2. Identify, where possible, funding sources to support collaborative projects.
    3. Support engagement of members of learning collaborative in collaborative projects.
    4. Encourage members of the working group to share current projects they are working on with the learning collaborative


Download the EC Overview document for more information about the work group.

Want to know more about Early Childhood Work Group members? Access our Member Slides here

Download the article ‘Best Practices for Collaboration in Research’ by Lucy Delgadillo, Utah State University, for more information on the Learning Collaborative model

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


December 2020: Co-benefits of promoting healthy eating where children live, learn, and play: An exploration of existing literature (Sheila Fleischhacker and Rachel Sande-Bleiweiss)

October 2020: Association Between Health-Enhancing Community Environment and Early Childhood Education Classroom Best Practices (Bethany Williams)

July 2020: Wellness of the Early Care and Education Workforce: Science & Practice (Laura Lessard, Kerri Schnake, Angela Moreland)

June 2020: A Natural Experiment of State-Level Physical Activity and Screen-Time Policy Changes on Early Childhood Education Centers and Child Physical Activity (Chelsea Kracht)

April 2020:Initial evidence and future opportunities in engaging fathers of preschool age children in the prevention of childhood obesity (Amy Mobley)

February 2020: The Healthy Start/Comienzos Sanos Cluster-Randomized Trial in Family Child Care Homes: Baseline Data and Preliminary Results (Kim Gans)


November 2019: Community Improvement Science for Cancer Prevention in Early Childhood (David Dzewaltowski)

October 2019: Prevention of Obesity from a European Perspective (Susanne Ring-Dimitriou) and Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth: Turning Evidence on What Works for Child Well-being into Practical Preventative Action  (Penny Dakin)

August 2019: Preliminary Results from an Implementation Trial of Obesity Prevention Practices in Head Start (Taren Swindle)

July 2019: Enhancing Physical Activity and Nutrition Early Care and Education Environments in Oklahoma (Susan Sisson)

June 2019: Peer Leadership in Preschool-Based Parent Health Education: Implementation Strategies and Preliminary Results (Jacob Beckerman)

May 2019: Using the Remote Food Photography Method to Measure Children’s Dietary Intake in the Preschool Setting (Kate Bauer, Corby Martin)

April 2019: Environmental and Familial Factors Associated with Child Eating Behaviors: Observational Approaches to Studying Mealtimes (Jaclyn Saltzman)

March 2019: Evaluating Child Care Beverage Policies for Infants and Children Across the US (Danielle Lee, Lorrene Ritchie – Nutrition Policy Institute)

January 2019: Washington State Foundational Quality Standards for Early Learning Settings (Adrienne Dorf)

Part 1 Presentation Recording

Part 2 Presentation Recording


December 2018: (Minimum) Wages and Child Care Worker Health: Findings from Two Studies (Jennifer Otten, Tori Bradford)

November 2018: The STRONG Kids Initiative: A Cells to Society Perspective on the Early Determinants of Childhood Obesity (Brent McBride)

October 2018: 1,000 Days Video Series – Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices (Adrianna Logalbo)

September 2018: HomeStyles Program: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (Carol Byrd-Bredbenner)

July 2018: Policy Mapping Landscapes to Improve Child Nutrition in Child Care Settings (Jen Otten, Natasha Frost)

June 2018: Panel discussion on the history of research in SNAP-ed and how SNAP-ed impacts PSE change in the field of ECE (Angela Odoms-Young, Patty Keane, Mary Schroeder)

May 2018: Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Interventions in Family Child Care (Julie Shuell, Nemours)

April 2018: Introduction to Child Care & Early Education Research Connections (Research Connections)

March 2018: Child Care Workforce Health – a two gen solution to creating healthy communities with non-parental caregivers (Krista Scott, ChildCare Aware)

February 2018: The WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 and WIC Program and Participant Characteristics (Courtney Paolicelli + Anthony Panzera)

January 2018: Food Crediting in Child Nutrition Programs: Request for Information (Geri Henchy)


December 2017: Early Childhood Overweight from an Ecological Perspective (Jessica Gubbels)

November 2017: Learning Collaborative Facilitated Discussion: Goals, Planned Activities, and Next Steps (Frost, Diev, Tovar)

October 2017: Updates on two research projects – Compliance with 5-2-1-0 Obesity Recommendations Among Preschool-Aged Children Attending Childcare + the Association Between Maternal Eating Behaviors and the Styles with which they Feed Their Infants’ ( Kristen Copeland + Amrik Singh Khalsa)

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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


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

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)

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

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

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

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)



EC Working Group CoChairs

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


Alison Tovar, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences
University of Rhode Island


For more information, please contact:

Healthy Eating Research
*A national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

ALR: www.activelivingresearch.org

HER: www.healthyeatingresearch.org

NOPREN: www.nopren.org

PAPRN: http://paprn.wustl.edu