Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



Objective: The intent of this study was to examine low income Head Start overweight and obese preschoolers, ages 3-5, in 8 western Ohio counties. Variables of interest included: obesity status, rural versus metropolitan location, home versus center-based Head Start, and access to physicians.

Methods: Data was collected retrospectively from the host Head Start site located in Piqua, Ohio. All Head Start enrolled preschoolers (N=1,181) ages 3 to 5 within the 8 western Ohio counties and 43 programs were studied. All children were considered of low income based on their acceptance into the Head Start program.

The data was retrieved from an internal software program that housed all self-reported Head Start enrollment information. Data retrieved from the software included, age, height, weight, body mass index, gender, and home versus center-based care. Classifications on metropolitan versus rural counties were retrieved from the Office of Management and Budget. Assess to physicians referred to the Ohio Department of Health’s socioeconomic profiles identifying the number of physicians per 10,000 by county. Descriptive data analysis was conducted using Excel©, and statistical analysis was conducted using SAS®.

Results: Total subjects were 1,181 within 43 Head Start programs in 8 western Ohio counties. Rural locations accounted for 674 subjects within 6 counties, and metropolitan locations accounted for 507 subjects within 2 counties. The prevalence of Head Start preschool obesity (percentile) varied by county from 14.8% in metropolitan Greene County to 21.1% in rural Darke County. Data on metropolitan versus rural location was highly statically significant, p

Conclusion: Head Start preschoolers attending a rural location program are at high risk of becoming overweight or obese. A major limitation to this study is the unknown home environment. The average child spend 2.5 hours at the Head Start center for 4 days a week suggesting that an imbalance of calories in versus calories out may be likely related to the rural home environments rather than the standardized Head Start programs.