Making early childhood centres safer and healthier

Community and Public Health supports health, wellbeing and safety in early childhood. Early learning services such as childcare centres play an essential role in the education, health and life of pre-school children.

Community and Public Health staff provide the following services for early childhood centres:

  • Support and advice to help make centres healthy environments where children, whānau and staff can flourish. This includes having a strong cultural identity, and encouraging positive mental wellbeing, being active, healthy eating and good oral health.
  • Health and safety assessments on new or existing centres as requested under the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Centres Regulations. This assessment is from a public health perspective – looking at compliance with legislative requirements and assessment of health risk. Please note: there is a charge for this assessment.
  • General health and safety advice to Early Childhood Centres, including for new proposed centres or renovations to existing centres.
  • Assistance with Resource Management Applications for Early Childhood Centres.
  • Supporting promotion of good oral health in South Canterbury.
  • Providing specialist advice on public health issues such as water, disease outbreaks, and chemical hazards.


Supporting healthy environments in early childhood settings

Development during early childhood lays the foundation for health, education, social, employment and economic outcomes throughout the life course. Many young New Zealand children spend time in early childhood education (ECE) settings, making them an ideal location for health promotion.

Community and Public Health recently did a rapid evidence review presenting evidence from recently-published reviews on the effectiveness of health promotion interventions in several areas delivered in ECE settings.

Early childhood teachers in Canterbury showing the way in sun protection

Sun safety in early childhood education settings was a recent focus of Community and Public Health and the Canterbury West Coast division of the Cancer Society.

Health promoters teamed up to talk with 26 Early Childhood Education teachers about their sun protection practices in May and July 2018. This included what was working well and what support they would value. ‘Equity-funded’ preschools were prioritised, with a selection of others.

All settings spoken to had sun protection policies, and provided spare hats to children.  96 percent provided a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen and ECE managers self-reported that 96 percent of staff model sun protective behaviour very well. Few early childhood settings knew about the new Cancer Society PD module for early childhood educators. Affordability of resources was important to educators who believed that the expense was a barrier to many families.

Protecting under fives from infectious diseases

Early childhood centres present health risks to children, staff and other people who spend time at the centre. There is potential for disease transmission because:

  • Children under five years (because of their developmental stage) are likely to have poorly developed personal hygiene habits;
  • There is a high level of physical contact between children;
  • Nappy changing is considered to be a high risk activity;
  • Food may be shared; and
  • Children tend to place items in their mouths and may contaminate those items – spreading the risk of disease.

Disease transmission within early childhood centres may have implications for the wider community, particularly parents, caregivers and friends of children attending. Health and safety risks in early childhood centre environments will be reduced by maintaining effective public health oversight through assessment, enforcement and health promotion.




Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


For infectious disease or environmental health enquiries, contact:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6484

Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091

Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169

For more information on other issues, contact:

Jenni Marceau
Ph: +64 3 378 6737
Fax: +64 3 379 6125

Debbie Johnstone
Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091

Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169

Nourishing Futures with Better Kai

Community and Public Health West Coast developed this resource for parents of toddlers and young children.

This booklet is designed to help parents with all things nutrition for their little one, to set them up for healthy habits throughout their life.

Nourishing Futures with Better Kai.

Page last updated: 05/03/2019

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