UNCE program earns prestigious NIFA award

Program has increased healthy eating and physical activity of young children

10/1/2012 - By: Kayla Johnson
Young girl dancing All 4 Kids uses dance and music to teach preschoolers certain movements important to their development.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's (UNCE) All 4 Kids: Healthy, Happy, Active, Fit program has been selected to receive the National Institute Food and Agriculture Partnership Award for mission integration. 

Anne Lindsay, a specialist in exercise physiology, will accept the award on Oct. 11, in Washington, D.C. Lindsay is one of the creators for the program along with Teresa Byington, a UNCE specialist in early childhood development, and Madeleine Sigman-Grant, UNCE specialist in maternal child nutrition.

Lindsay credits the success of the program to collaboration.

"Three faculty members that specialize in three different areas came together," Lindsay said. "Each of us completely brought our own expertise, passion, and creativity to the table when we developed the program. It started with basic collaboration within UNCE and has just expanded."

The program, which began in 2007, targets the childhood obesity problem in Nevada by encouraging preschool children and families to practice healthy eating habits and to be physically active every day. Such a program was needed as almost one in three children in Nevada is obese or overweight, Lindsay said.

The program consists of 30-minute lessons taught three times a week for eight weeks by UNCE staff. Each week of the program, children receive an All 4 Kids Family Pack containing a nutrition activity for the family to complete together.

Lindsay said All 4 Kids is different from other programs in the country that study the behavior factors that affect childhood obesity.

"We are not just doing ordinary physical activity," Lindsay said. "We are creating opportunities for them in the future, and one of the ways we did that was creating music and dance. It is a standalone project that other preschool programs can use by incorporating authentic, creative, targeted dance and music. "

Karen Hinton, former UNCE dean and director, said that 44 university students have been involved in the research of the program, including 28 graduate students and 16 undergraduate students from University of Nevada, Reno, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and six other universities across the country.

All 4 Kids is the first preschool program in the nation to address both the child-care and home environments that affect the physically activity and feeding habits of young children. It is also the first preschool program to teach children about weight biases and that they can be healthy no matter their shape or size.

The program has reached more than 4,000 preschoolers and their families in southern Nevada and is expanding to northern Nevada. Educators in Oklahoma, Connecticut and New Jersey have also started teaching All 4 Kids to preschoolers in those states.

Lindsay said the program is likely to expand even farther in coming months through online training modules being developed by UNCE.

"We've created tools that we would like to get validated and used in preschools all over the country," she said. "More than anything, we want to share all of the resources completed by three faculty members who came together with our own expertise."

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