In the early 2000s, childhood obesity became a critical health issue in the United States identified by the Centers for Disease Control. In response to this development, the popular children’s television show Sesame Street, created a multi-year initiative, Healthy Habits for Life Sesame Street, to help young children and caregivers establish healthy habits early on, creating a solid foundation for later in life. In the early stages of development, the planning team created an advisory board consisting of several health experts that were charged with examining existing research and conducting pilot studies in order to determine where additional research was still needed with respect to combating childhood obesity. This research served as the foundation for the Healthy Habits program which launched in 2005 alongside season 36 of Sesame Street – a season designed in tandem with the program and dedicated to exploring different healthy habits in each episode. Program materials were packaged in a childcare resource kit designed for use by primary and secondary care takers of young children. This toolkit included a booklet full of activities, games, poems, songs, and dances designed to help get kids moving and making healthy food choices, and a DVD with skits created to support the written materials. All activities were crafted so that they required minimal preparation and could be used at any point throughout the day, making it easy to incorporate the program into already existing routines. Designed with versatility in mind, programming was made to meet the needs of all group sizes, indoor and outdoor learning, and active and quiet play. The program also stressed the importance of caretakers participating in activities alongside the children, highlighting that modeling behaviors for children would lead to higher levels of engagement over time. In addition to the television show’s regular airtime, the Healthy Habits for Life program was promoted through a series of public service announcements featuring United States Senators and popular show characters (Elmo and Rosita) as well as a traveling interactive museum exhibit: Sesame Street Presents: The Body, which highlighted the importance of health, nutrition, physical fitness, and personal hygiene.
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