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State Child-Care Rules Don't Uphold Health Standards, Study Says

We've heard a lot of debate this year over how to define and assess quality child care. Now a new study is adding kids' health standards into the mix by reporting that most state regulations for child-care centers don't uphold standards on oral health and nutrition that are recommended by pediatricians and other experts.

The study by researchers at the University of Illinois concludes that the lax attention to the health standards could be contributing to the growing problems of tooth decay and obesity in kids because so many attend day care.

Researchers found that, on average, state rules cover only three of the eight oral health standards and six of the 11 nutritional standards developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics in collaboration with the American Public Health Association and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education.

The study compared the standards, released in 2002, to state regulations that were in place in February to April 2010, according to a university news release.

"Considering the rising rates of both obesity and dental caries among preschool children, child care can be an important point of intervention in today's society," Juhee Kim, the lead author of the study published this past summer in the journal Pediatric Dentistry, said in the release. "We hope that the findings will prompt child-care providers to develop and implement comprehensive feeding and oral health-care policies."

Focused mainly on the prevention of early-childhood tooth decay, researchers learned that the need for oral screenings was "mentioned or implied" in the regulations of just four states, even though the national standards recommend the screenings before kids enter and while they're in child care. And the regulations of seven states don't even mention any of the oral health standards, according to the study.

On the nutrition front, only 30 states required that child-care centers serve fruits and vegetables. But almost all did have rules covering the frequency of meals and snacks, the study found.

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