In the US, there are more than 120,000 child care centers. The individuals who work at these centers represent a very large and growing population. The work is demanding and the pay modest. Often, these individuals experience health problems that affect their quality of life.

Worksite-based interventions are an effective strategy for improving employees’ physical activity and diet behaviors. However, there have been almost no efforts to create worksite programs that can be implemented through child care centers. There are amazing opportunities to mobilize this workforce to be more physically active, make better food choices, and create a healthier environment for themselves at work and for the children in their care.

Topic area(s): Physical Activity, Obesity Prevention and Control


The primary aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of the Healthy Lifestyles program and the Healthy Finances program on a variety of health outcomes among participating child care providers. Our primary interest is to assess physical activity levels, but we will also evaluate the impact of these programs on eating habits, weight, smoking habits, emotional health, and sleep; as well as the any changes that might occur in the work environment. The overall goal of this research is to find new ways to improve the health of child care workers and the child care center work environment. We believe that results of this study will make a difference here in North Carolina, and possibly, on a national basis as well.


This study will evaluate the efficacy of a 6-month child care-based intervention to improve workers’ physical activity and other health-related behaviors compared to an attention control intervention (Healthy Lifestyles vs. Healthy Finances). The study sample will use a cluster randomized design and a sample of 104 child care centers and 416 child care workers (4 workers/center). The intervention arm will receive a 6-month child care-based intervention designed to improve workers’ moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and other health-related behaviors (Healthy Lifestyles). The control arm (attention control) will receive a similarly structured program about financial health (Healthy Finances). The primary outcome is workers’ MVPA; and secondary outcomes include workers’ dietary intake, weight, smoking, sleep, and stress, as well as the centers’ health supportive policies/structures for staff wellness and the overall physical activity environment for children. All primary and secondary outcomes will be assessed at baseline, post-intervention (6 months), and maintenance (18 months).


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


Principal Investigator: Dianne S Ward, EdD
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Principal Investigator: Laura Linnan, ScD
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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