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Woman playing with children using hula hoopsThe health and wellness of NC child care workers will will be getting a boost thanks to a new intervention program at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Care2BWell, which is directed by UNC HPDP Research Fellows Dr. Dianne Ward and Dr. Laura Linnan, will test an intervention model designed to help child care workers improve physical activity and healthy eating.

The program, which is funded by a $3.4 million, five year grant from the National Institute of Health, will work with 104 child care centers across North Carolina.

Ward, who is also professor of nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Linnan, professor of health behavior in the same school, said that child care workers have received very little research attention in the past, despite earning low wages and making up 1.2 million jobs in the United States.

“Child care workers have demanding jobs,” Linnan said. “They work long hours, some work on holidays. And they’re expected to be 100 percent focused on the children they care for.”

By increasing physical activity and and improving healthy eating habits, workers will be put at a decreased risk for many chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. With this in mind, Ward said the intervention has important implications for the health of workers and children alike.

“Parents know how important it is to find quality health care for their children,” she said. “Child care workers are critical to that effort. If child care workers are healthy, they are in a much better position to provide excellent care for the children they work with.”

Linnan echoed Ward’s sentiment, and stressed the importance of child care worker health.

“We believe they will feel great physically and mentally,” she said. “And as a result, we expect they will model these healthy behaviors for the children in their care.”

The intervention will be carried out for six months, and will work directly with center directors and child care workers.

Donna White deputy director of the North Carolina Partnership for Children said Care2BWell is positioned to have a major impact in North Carolina.

“The Care2BWell study is a great opportunity for child care workers to improve their health and be strong role models for the children in their care,” she said. “Child care centers across our state will benefit from this study, and, in turn, so will the families and children in the communities they serve.”

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