Child Care and Early Childhood Education

Providence County, RI
United States

Family Service Rhode Island, Rhode Island Department of Health Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Rhode Island Department of Education Providence Health Community Office, LISC One Neighborhood, Progreso Latino Brown University School of Public Health
Social media handle(s)
@RIKidsCount (Instagram, Twitter), @RhodeIslandKIDSCOUNT (Facebook)

Examined the root causes of childhood overweight and obesity in Rhode Island to raise awareness and develop community-driven recommendations that reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, the Rhode Island Department of Health, Brown University School of Public Health, and four insurance plans have collaborated on a project to collect accurate childhood overweight and obesity data for Rhode Island by city/town, race and ethnicity, age, gender, and health insurance status. This collaboration provided the first clinical, claims-based dataset on childhood overweight and obesity in Rhode Island.

A 2022 report showed an increase in childhood overweight and obesity in Providence County since the onset of the pandemic, as well as persistent and unacceptable disparities by race and ethnicity, community, and insurance status. Rates of childhood overweight and obesity were considerably higher among Hispanic children and non-Hispanic Black children compared with white children, and the four Rhode Island communities with the highest child poverty rates had among the highest rates of childhood overweight and obesity.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT sought to facilitate community conversations about the root causes of childhood overweight and obesity in Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence to inform community-driven solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities. They formed a project advisory committee including representatives from Family Service Rhode Island, LISC, ONE Neighborhood, and Progreso Latino, as well as other state and local government agencies, with the community groups compensated for their assistance. The committee helped develop the agenda for the community events, conducted outreach to residents, and supported the concluding event and development of publications.

From the conversations, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT learned about the barriers that families in these communities face, including lack of access to culturally relevant food, less green space for exercising, exposure to air and noise pollution, and weight-stigma and discrimination. The final policy brief incorporated what they learned in the community conversations and the final community event with the quantitative analysis, plus provided messaging strategies and policy recommendations. An accompanying handout in English and Spanish on Action Steps for Parents and Community Advocates will facilitate grassroots advocacy to improve community conditions. The group plans to continue working with Health Equity Zones and to incorporate community engagement and lived experience in future projects.