New Research Teaches us how to Change Eating Behavior in Kids

The Lempert Report
October 18, 2019

For over a decade we have focused attention on kids’ obesity and poor eating habits, now a new study presented at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology suggests that knowledge alone is insufficient to change behavior.

"Numerous studies have addressed health issues in the school setting, but most have focused on physical activity and nutrition, with little attention to emotional issues such as self-esteem, depression and eating behaviors," said study author Dr Carolinne Santin Dal Ri, a pediatrician at the Institute of Cardiology of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

The Happy Life, Healthy Heart program randomly allocated ten public schools in the city of Frederico Westphalen, Brazil, to the intervention group (five schools) or control group (five schools). The study included 473 students aged 6 to 12 and 32 teachers. Baseline assessments included weight, height, physical activity, food intake, and health knowledge in children; and physical activity and food consumption in teachers. Measurements were repeated after the intervention was completed.

The intervention had two stages: teacher training followed by students in the classroom. Teachers attended four meetings over a four-month period, were given a booklet, and had access to video lessons. 

A group was also created on a social network where they received messages and reminders from the researcher on the topic they were supposed to work on. Teachers also shared their own experiences.  

For the control group schools, teachers did not participate in the training course and students attended the school's usual classes about health and healthy eating based on the curriculum.

Both students and teachers benefitted from the intervention. The proportion of students following Brazilian Food Guide advice to avoid pizza/hamburgers and soft drinks increased significantly by 15% and 20%, respectively. In addition, there was a 28% increase in the number of teachers who were physically active.