Poster Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting

Combining the messages of obesity prevention and environmental sustainability in early childhood classrooms: Pilot test of a pedagogical intervention.  (#263)

Heather Morris 1 , Helen Skouteris , Susan Edwards 2 , Leonie Rutherford 3 , Amy Cutter-Mackenzie 4
  1. Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia
  2. Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia
  3. Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria
  4. Southern Cross University, Gold Coast , Queensland

Early childhood educators are aware of the problem of overweight and obesity in preschool children. They are concerned by the prevalence of high energy snack foods with popular culture labelling that they see in lunchboxes; the environmental consequences of these consumer choices; and the way popular culture media interests are changing children’s play. This presentation will outline the pilot work undertaken to determine the feasibility of implementing a pedagogical intervention that assisted early childhood educators to combine the messages of obesity prevention and environmental sustainability.

A pedagogical communication strategy was co-designed with stakeholders to support curriculum development.  An ARC Discovery grant (2014-2016) was awarded to the team to evaluate the efficacy of this strategy to improve 4-year-old children’s (mean age=4.64; SD=0.47) knowledge about healthy eating, active play and the sustainability consequences of their food and toy choices. The pilot phase of this randomised trial was conducted in 2014 with Early Childhood Management Services (ECMS) and was received with enthusiasm by educators, parents, children and by the executives of ECMS. Whilst parental consent for their child’s participation was obtained easily for 218 children (128 in intervention and 90 in control), the number of parents who completed a 10-minute self-reported questionnaire was low across both trial groups (84 in intervention and 62 in control, a response rate of 65% and 69% respectively). All children enjoyed having their height and weight taken as well as being interviewed for data collection, albeit child interview data turned out not to be informative. Post intervention discussions with participating educators, ECMS staff and the project Steering Committee informed revisions to the child interview and parent questionnaire delivery to ensure complete and richer data are obtained this year with the actual implementation of the trial.  A parent engagement component was also included in the 2015 roll.