UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Does an active play standard change childcare physical activity and healthy eating policies? A natural policy experiment Tugault-Lafleur, Claire N.; Naylor, Patti-Jean; Carson, Valerie; Faulkner, Guy E. J., 1970-; Lau, Erica; Wolfenden, Luke; Mâsse, Louise C.


Background In 2017, the provincial government of British Columbia (BC) implemented a mandatory policy outlining Active Play Standards (AP Standards) to increase physical activity (PA) levels, sedentary and motor skills among children attending licensed childcare centers. Concurrently, a capacity-building initiative was launched to help implement policies and practices supporting both PA and healthy eating (HE) in the early years. This study evaluated differences in center-level PA and HE policies and practices before and after the enforcement of the new provincial AP Standards. Methods Using a repeat cross-sectional design, surveys were distributed to managers and staff of licensed childcare facilities serving children aged 2–5 years before (2016–2017 or ‘time 1’) and after (2018–2019 or ‘time 2’) implementation of the AP Standards across BC. The total sample included 1,459 respondents (910 and 549 respondents at time 1 and time 2, respectively). Hierarchical mixed effects models were used to examine differences in 9 and 7 PA/sedentary policies and practices, respectively, as well as 11 HE policies between time 1 and time 2. Models controlled for childcare size and area-level population size, education, and income. Results Compared to centers surveyed at time 1, centers at time 2 were more likely to report written policies related to: fundamental movement skills, total amount of Active Play (AP) time, staff-led AP, unfacilitated play/free play, total amount of outdoor AP time, limiting screen time, breaking up prolonged sitting, staff role modeling of PA, and training staff about PA (P < 0.01 for all 9 policies examined). Compared to time 1, centers at time 2 reported more frequent practices related to ensuring children engaged in at least 120 min of AP, 60 min of outdoor AP daily, and limiting screen time (P < 0.01 for 3 out of 7 practices examined). Despite no additional policy intervention related to HE, centers were more likely to report having written policies related to: HE education for children, encouraging new foods, having family-style meals, offering only milk or water, limiting the amount of juice served, staff role modeling of HE, limiting the types of foods at parties/celebrations and foods brought from home (P < 0.05 for 9 out of 11 HE policies). Conclusion Approximately a year after the implementation of a governmental policy targeting PA supported by a capacity-building initiative, childcare centers reported positive changes in all 9 PA/sedentary policies examined, all 3 out of 7 PA/sedentary practices and 9 out of 11 HE policies evaluated at the center-level.

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