The effect of a nutrition and health education programme on the dietary choices and body composition measures in 10-12 year old New Zealand children : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Nutritional Science at Massey University
Childhood dietary patterns are formed at a young age and influenced by a number of factors including the media, family members and school environment. With the increasing prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity it is therefore important to educate children on appropriate dietary and lifestyle behaviours. This research aimed to investigate: (1) the effects of a 12-week nutrition and health education programme on the dietary intakes of children aged 10-12 years; and (2) the effects of the education programme on children's body composition measures including height, weight and body mass index values. Two New Zealand intermediate schools were chosen for the study and consisted two hundred and forty four children (aged 10-12 years) in the intervention school and one hundred and six children in the control school. At baseline and at 3 months, dietary intake and body composition was assessed in the children. The intervention school also received a 12-week health and nutrition education programme taught by class teachers and consisting of nine different modules looking at healthy lifestyle and nutrition behaviours. Dietary intakes were measured by a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) that collected information on the daily frequency of foods consumed within the last 4 weeks. Height and weight measurements were collected and this allowed body mass index (BMI) values to be calculated. The food frequency questionnaire has been previously validated against twenty four hour dietary records and the New Zealand Food Composition Database 2000 (NZFCD). There were no significant differences between the two groups for body composition values. Both groups displayed some significant differences (p≤0.05) among dietary intake between baseline and follow-up with changes in median number of servings per day. A larger number of changes were seen among intervention subjects and may have been attributed to the school education intervention programme however no definite conclusions can be made. Other influences such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other lifestyle factors may have affected results but these were not investigated. Although results were inconclusive, significant findings from the study are encouraging for future studies. Limitations and future recommendations are provided.