The link between early life environment and long term health is well recognised1. Developing healthy food preferences and fundamental movement skills in young children will further protect against chronic disease in adulthood. Early childhood centres, where young children spend an average of 20 hours per week, provide an opportunistic environment for the translation of interventions based on evidence into improved health outcomes for children. The established (since 2004) Project Energize programme in primary schools has shown that application of the ”Energize model” is associated with lower body size and increased fitness2. The model includes memoranda of understanding, stocktakes, needs analyses and action plans agreed with a designated Energizer who works with the school or centre. Under 5 Energize is a new Ministry of Health-funded programme involving 133 early childhood centres to improve maternal and child health through good nutrition and fundamental movement skill development.
Evidence for effectiveness of translation of evidence into a public health programme can be evaluated using action research around five areas - reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance (RE-AIM)3. Progress is measured against contracted programme objectives and implementation against delivery objectives (number of visits over time, number of nutrition and physical activity sessions and review of six monthly centre driven action plans).
Under 5 Energize has reached 93% of targeted centres, 88% have signed up to the programme and 61% have adopted a nutrition and physical activity action plan since August 2013. The population reached is representative of the Waikato population and matches programme objectives. Evidence for implementation includes 62 nutrition and physical activity education sessions involving 720 educators and parents. Monitoring is underway to record changes in the food and physical activity environment. ‘Energizer’ weekly progress reports already show changes occurring in policy and practice such as the replacement of sugary drinks with water.