School-Based Health Promotion: The Effects of a Nutrition Education Program

By Blom-Hoffman, Jessica; DuPaul, George J. | School Psychology Review, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

School-Based Health Promotion: The Effects of a Nutrition Education Program


Blom-Hoffman, Jessica, DuPaul, George J., School Psychology Review


Abstract. An exploratory evaluation of the effect of a multicomponent nutrition education program on student knowledge and behavior change is described. The nutrition education program was implemented in an urban environment with African American children and their families. Results of the outcome evaluation indicated the program was implemented with generally acceptable integrity and was considered socially valid from the perspective of teachers and students. There were robust increases in knowledge related to healthy eating among students who received nutrition education in this program relative to baseline and to students in the control group. Changes in eating behaviors were not statistically significant. Roles for school psychologists interested in implementing and evaluating health promotion programs are discussed.

The importance of activities that promote healthy lifestyles among children is indisputable. The call for psychologists in schools to assist in this area has been articulated in several important articles (Kolbe, Collins, & Cortese, 1997; Nastasi, 2001; Short & Talley, 1997). In fact, the importance of wellness promotion is highlighted in the school psychology training blueprint (Ysseldyke et al., 1997). School psychologists have the potential to serve in a number of important roles in the development, implementation, and outcome evaluation of prevention and health promotion programs. These roles include (a) conducting needs assessments to determine what areas are important to address from the perspectives of key stakeholders, (b) selecting programs with sound theoretical underpinnings and empirical support, (c) adapting programs to make them relevant to the culture of the school and surrounding community, and (d) planning how to evaluate the efficacy, implementation integrity and acceptability of programs. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how a school psychologist was able to assume many of these roles in the context of a nutrition education program designed to affect children's dietary behaviors.

Health promotion and disease prevention activities in the area of nutrition education are important to begin early in childhood because of the well-established relationships between diet and health. Inadequate nutritional intake and poor dietary habits in childhood are directly related to children's health status and ability to learn. Additionally, once established in childhood, eating patterns tend to remain consistent throughout life (Kelder, Perry, Klepp, & Lytle, 1994), and are associated with serious, life-threatening diseases. For children to develop lifelong, healthy nutritional habits, prevention activities should begin early; should involve active, participatory learning that capitalizes upon social learning principles; and should be novel. Additionally, prevention messages, to be effective, should be both culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1996; Lytle et al., 1997).

The school environment is considered an optimal place for health promotion/disease prevention activities to occur. In this setting, large numbers of children can be targeted in a cost-effective manner, and instruction is a natural part of the school day. When trained appropriately, school personnel can be instrumental in the promotion of healthy eating patterns, and can reinforce instruction with motivational strategies to influence positive behavior change (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1996). It is recommended that motivational strategies to influence dietary changes and multiple opportunities to practice these changes complement cognitive-focused curricula because the provision of knowledge alone does not necessarily promote behavioral change (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1996).

Every Day, Lots of Ways (EDLW) is a knowledge-based nutrition education curriculum (Pennsylvania Department of Education, 1996) that integrates behavioral change strategies into the lessons. …

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