Objective: As schools have continuous and intensive contact during the first two decades of a child’s life, school-based interventions can instil healthy lifestyle behaviors. This study evaluated the pilot of Qatar’s first school-based nutrition education campaign.
Methods: Qatar Obesity Reduction Study (QORS) was an observational study examining a pilot campaign’s impact on children’s eating habits (self-reported questionnaire), physical activity levels (accelerometry), and body composition (bioimpedance) across two time periods (beginning of school term 2 and end of term 3 of the school year).
Results: Baseline data were provided by 335 elementary school students, and 83.3% were followed up (n=278). The self-reported frequency of rice consumption decreased from baseline to follow-up (P<0.001). Although not statistically significant, fruit intake (a lot) increased by almost 6% post-intervention compared to baseline and vegetable intake (a lot) increased by 3.5%. Similarly, the frequency of eating ‘a lot’ of unhealthy food items, such as biscuits and cakes/muffins, reduced, but not significantly. Only the percentage of time spent performing light activity increased post-intervention (P<0.001). The prevalence of obesity and overweight, and BMI z scores did not change significantly.
Conclusion: We observed some positive changes in eating habits after a short nutrition education campaign in an elementary school in Qatar, a country with a high prevalence of childhood obesity. The findings are supportive for the extension of the campaign to other schools with further evaluation. A school-based nutrition education campaign could have a positive impact on choices of food consumed.
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