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As part of a national initiative to reduce child obesity, a comprehensive school-based nutrition education intervention to change eating behaviours among grade 4 primary-school students was developed, implemented and evaluated.
The intervention was developed by school staff, with technical assistance from outside health education specialists. The programme included school facility upgrades, school teacher/staff training, curriculum changes and activities for parents. Student scores on nine key eating behaviours were assessed prior to and after the programme. The quality of programme implementation in the schools was monitored by technical assistance teams.
Shandong Province (high household income) and Qinghai Province (low household income), China. Three programme schools and three control schools in each province.
Students in grade 4 (age 8–9 years).
There were significant positive changes in self-reported eating behaviour scores from pre- to post-assessment in programme schools. At post-test students in programme schools had significantly higher scores than students in control schools after controlling for other variables. The programme was more effective in the high-income province. Observations by the technical assistance teams suggested the programme was implemented more completely in Shandong. The teams noted the challenges for implementing and evaluating programmes like these.
This intervention increased healthy eating behaviours among 4th graders in both provinces and had more effect in the more affluent province. Results suggest that a scaled-up initiative using existing school and public health resources could change eating practices in a large population over time. The intervention also provided lessons for implementing and evaluating similar nutrition programmes.
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