Introduction For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have
shorter life expectancies than their parents.
—New York Times, March 17, 2005
Children’s health is in jeopardy. In recent years, the number of children who are overweight
or obese has skyrocketed, and with this rise has come all sorts of related illnesses and injuries.
Children these days are coping with stress, jam-packed schedules, and pressure to perform every
day. At the same time, schools and many early childhood programs—even families, frankly—are
reducing or eliminating children’s opportunities for imagination, play, and physical activity. Our
current culture and our daily routines do not support children’s healthy development. Worse: our
way of life is harming children’s health.
Why Early Childhood?
We wrote Healthy Children, Healthy Lives because we are alarmed by the health crisis children
face these days, a crisis we feel strongly all early childhood professionals need to understand. But
equally important, we wrote this book because we believe the community of early childhood
professionals can—and must—do something to help.
By taking a complete, proactive approach toward children’s health and wellness, we are cer-
tain the unhealthy trends affecting children these days can be reversed. We are convinced that the
movement to improve young children’s health and wellness won’t happen in a conference room or
congressional session—although organizational programs and a few strategic policies won’t hurt.
It will happen through the everyday learning experiences a young child has with a committed
caregiver. That means you.
Every week over 11 million children in the United States under the age of five spend an
average of thirty-six hours in some type of child care setting. During the hours these children
are in care, they count on a child care professional like you to meet their health and safety needs
and to enable their growth and development. To support these children, caregiving profession-
als do many things: provide meals and snacks, promote physical activities, guide behavior, offer
emotional support, and provide a safe environment in which children can explore. Further, while
facilitating the children’s growth and learning, caregivers plan and offer experiences that support
children’s physical and social-emotional health—two domains directly related to a child’s overall
wellness. In short, child care professionals are tasked with providing for children’s overall health
and wellness. This is an opportunity we need to capitalize on.
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