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Head Start is a nationwide developmental program for low-income families. This study aimed to investigate the association between the Head Start program and children's BMI status, as well as their quality of life with respect to socioecological obesogenic factors. This cross-sectional study employed the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K) in which the data were collected in 2007 and analyzed in 2019. Propensity-score matching analysis was performed to examine the association between the Head Start program and children's BMI status, as well as the quality of life, controlling for socioecological obesogenic factors. A total of 3753 children (representing 1,284,209 at the population level) were recruited in this study (mean age: 13.69 years; girls: 49.42%). In the final matched model, the program did not have a statistically significant effect on children's obesity. Fewer African American children participated in school-sponsored activities, perceived themselves as overweight, lived in a household with fewer family members, had less strict TV regulations, and were more likely to be overweight than their counterparts. Outcomes suggest that multiple dimensions of sociological obesogenic factors including individual, parental, familial, and community support factors affect the weight of children from low-income families and should be considered when establishing behavioral and policy interventions to thwart the childhood obesity epidemic.


Taeeung Kim, Minju Kim, Chang-Yong Jang, Nam-Gyeong Gim. Effects of the Head Start Program on Socioecological Obesogenic Factors in American Children. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021 Apr 29;18(9)

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PMID: 33947141

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