Effectiveness of School Programs in Preventing Childhood Overweight: A Natural Experiment Created by New Policy

— Paul Veugelers

Intervention Research Project
Timeline: April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2010
Funding Amount: $252,646

What is this research Program about?

This research project aims to evaluate the effectiveness and of a board-wide, Nova Scotian school health program, the Annapolis Valley Health Promoting Schools (AVHPS) program, in reducing the prevalence of childhood overweight among elementary students in the Annapolis Valley region. Findings from the original 7- school pilot program were instrumental in the development of a new policy which sees the AVHPS being implemented board-wide in all 28 schools. Each will be incorporating aspects of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for school-based healthy eating programs, such as adopting a coordinated school nutrition policy that promotes healthy eating through classroom lessons and a supportive school environment, and coordinating school food service with nutrition education.

How will this research be done?

The research team will survey grade five students and their parents to measure a number of characteristics related to overweight, including height and weight assessments, using Harvard’s Youth Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire, validated questions on physical and sedentary activities, and a parental survey on family factors and socioeconomic background. Pre- and post-intervention measurements will be taken during consecutive school years and then compared, starting with data collected from grade five students in 2005 (pre-intervention) to data collected from grade five students in 2008 (three years post-intervention).

Why is this research important?
This research may help to enhance understanding of childhood overweight intervention programs using an intervention initiated and supported by parents, teachers and local and provincial policy makers. If the research results from the current intervention reveal a demonstrated reduction in the prevalence of childhood overweight in a location different from the original research setting, this may imply that the AVHPS program model is portable to other settings in Nova Scotia and across Canada.

Paul Veugelers
University of Alberta