American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

Promoting Health to Preschoolers

Targeting Preschool Children to Promote Cardiovascular Health: Cluster Randomized Trial

preeschool608.gr3.lrgSchool programs can be effective in modifying knowledge, attitudes, and habits relevant to long-term risk of chronic diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles. As part of a long-term research strategy, we conducted an educational intervention in preschool facilities to assess changes in preschoolers’ knowledge, attitudes, and habits toward healthy eating and living an active lifestyle.

Using a cluster design, we randomly assigned 14 preschool facilities in Bogotá, Colombia to a 5-month educational and playful intervention (7 preschool facilities ) or to usual curriculum (7 preschool facilities ). A total of 1216 children aged 3-5 years, 928 parents, and 120 teachers participated. A structured survey was used at baseline, at the end of the study, and 12 months later to evaluate changes in knowledge, attitudes, and habits.

Children in the intervention group showed a 10.9% increase in weighted score, compared with 5.3% in controls. The absolute adjusted difference was 3.90 units (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.64-6.16; P <.001). Among parents, the equivalent statistics were 8.9% and 3.1%, respectively (absolute difference 4.08 units; 95% CI, 2.03 to 6.12; P <.001), and among teachers, 9.4% and 2.5%, respectively (absolute difference 5.36 units; 95% CI, −0.29-11.01; P = .06). In the intervened cohort 1 year after the intervention, children still showed a significant increase in weighted score (absolute difference of 6.38 units; P <.001).

A preschool-based intervention aimed at improving knowledge, attitudes, and habits related to healthy diet and active lifestyle is feasible, efficacious, and sustainable in very young children.

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— Jaime Céspedes, MD, German Briceño, MD, MSc, Michael E. Farkouh, MD, MSc, Rajesh Vedanthan, MD, MPH, Jorge Baxter, MA, Martha Leal, MD, MSc, Paolo Boffetta, MD, PhD, Mark Woodward, MSc, Marilyn Hunn, Rodolfo Dennis, MD, MSc, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Related article: Moving Countries Toward Healthier Lifestyles

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