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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

From "best practice" to "next practice": the effectiveness of school-based health promotion in improving healthy eating and physical activity and preventing childhood obesity

Christina Fung, Stefan Kuhle, Connie Lu, Megan Purcell, Marg Schwartz, Kate Storey and Paul J Veugelers*

Author Affiliations

School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 6-50 University Terrace, 8303 - 112 St, Edmonton, AB T6G 2 T4, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:27  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-27

Published: 13 March 2012

Abstract

Background

In 2005, we reported on the success of Comprehensive School Health (CSH) in improving diets, activity levels, and body weights. The successful program was recognized as a "best practice" and has inspired the development of the Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating (APPLE) Schools. The project includes 10 schools, most of which are located in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. The present study examines the effectiveness of a CSH program adopted from a "best practice" example in another setting by evaluating temporal changes in diets, activity levels and body weight.

Methods

In 2008 and 2010, we surveyed grade 5 students from approximately 150 randomly selected schools from the Canadian province of Alberta and students from 10 APPLE Schools. Students completed the Harvard Youth/Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire, questions on physical activity, and had their height and weight measured. Multilevel regression methods were used to analyze changes in diets, activity levels, and body weight between 2008 and 2010.

Results

In 2010 relative to 2008, students attending APPLE Schools were eating more fruits and vegetables, consuming fewer calories, were more physically active and were less likely obese. These changes contrasted changes observed among students elsewhere in the province.

Conclusions

These findings provide evidence on the effectiveness of CSH in improving health behaviors. They show that an example of "best practice" may lead to success in another setting. Herewith the study provides the evidence that investments for broader program implementation based on "best practice" are justified.

Keywords:
Public health; School health; Nutrition; Physical activity; Obesity; Children; Comprehensive school health; Health promotion; Program evaluation; Health policy