Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Impact of the Nutrition for Life Program on Junior High Students in New YorkState

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Impact of the Nutrition for Life Program on Junior High Students in New YorkState

Article excerpt

School-based nutrition education represents an important strategy for improving the health-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices of children and youth.[1] Health objectives for the year 2000 include the following objective for school-based nutrition education: "Increase to at least 75% the proportion of the nation's schools that provide nutrition education from preschool through 12th grade, preferably as part of quality school health education."[1]

This paper presents results of an outcome evaluation of the Nutrition For Life teaching program including the program's impact on the nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and self-reported behavior of seventh and eighth grade students in New York State. These results are part of a comprehensive study evaluating the dissemination, implementation, and impact of Nutrition For Life in New York State schools.[2]

Nutrition For Life was designed to be integrated into existing curricula in health and home economics (home and career skills) classes in New York State schools. A major feature of the program involves its focus on eating to promote health and well-being. The program incorporates this theme into three teaching units for junior high students (seventh and eighth grade) that focus on nutrition and food choices, nutritional needs over the life span, and nutrition and fitness. Nutrition For Life was disseminated to teachers through training workshops led by 15 community-based peer training teams. At the time of the impact evaluation, the program had been disseminated to 50% of the junior high school health and home and career skill teachers, and 75% of teachers in the state who received the program were using it.[2] An extensive review of the literature indicates the study reported here is the first state-wide impact evaluation of a school-based nutrition education program.

METHODS

The overall evaluation design compared students' knowledge, attitude, and behavior scores on a paper and pencil test in classes of teachers who used Nutrition For Life to the scores of students in classes of teachers who taught nutrition but without Nutrition For Life.

Subjects

Subject selection was based on a subset of the seventh and eighth grade teachers who responded to a random sample mail survey to assess dissemination and implementation of the program. At the time of sample selection, responses to the mail survey totaled 532 (60%). Of those who responded, 233 indicated they were teaching nutrition in seventh or eighth grade in a health or home and career skills class during the current (1989-1990) school year. Of those 233 teachers, 100 were using Nutrition For Life and 133 were not.

A random sample of 75 teachers was chosen from the group of Nutrition For Life users. Health teachers and big city teachers were oversampled because these categories were under-represented among respondents to the teacher survey. A second random sample of 75 teachers was chosen from teachers who did not use Nutrition For Life. In this selection process, teacher and school characteristics such as community type, socioeconomic status of students attending the school, and teaching assignment of the teacher were frequency matched to the proportions in the Nutrition For Life user sample.[3]

Participation of the 150 teachers selected was solicited by letter and by a follow-up telephone call from the local Cornell University Cooperative Extension agent. If a teacher agreed to participate, the teacher administered the test in April or May of 1990 to one class, randomly chosen by the extension agent. The evaluation plan was approved by the Cornell University Committee on Human Subjects.

Instrumentation

Two test forms were used in the student components. The longer form, which included items on nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, was sent to the 75 teachers in the Nutrition For Life user group. The shorter form, which included only attitude and behavior items, was sent to the 75 teachers who had not used Nutrition For Life. …

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