Background Over 340 million young people aged 5–19 were overweight or obese in 2016 (WHO, 2020). Educational interventions implemented during childhood may be key to ameliorating the burden of obesity on global health (Llargues et al., 2011). The Food for Thought Project was a volunteering scheme, led by medical students, aimed at further educating primary school children about nutrition. Interactive workshops were conducted for children to explore healthy food alternatives, nutritional labels, sugar content, and diabetes.
Objectives The primary objective was to assess the effectiveness of using nutrition-focussed workshops alongside the existing curriculum, emphasising the importance of healthy eating and diabetes. The secondary objective was to provide teaching opportunities to medical students with an interest in paediatrics and lifestyle medicine.
Methods Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from pupils, teachers, and medical students. Pupils (n=106) in Years 4 and 5 filled out a questionnaire before and after the session, self-evaluating their ability to choose healthy foods, read nutrition labels, and describe diabetes. The questionnaire used a 3-point scale of ‘Yes’, ‘A Little’, and ‘No’. Additionally, the children rated their overall experience of the workshop using a pictorial 5-point scale of ‘Very Bad’ to ‘Brilliant’. To further assess the impact of the workshop, teachers (n=11) were given a questionnaire that employed a 5-point Likert scale, obtaining feedback on the relevance and appropriateness of the content for the age group. To address the secondary objective, qualitative feedback was obtained from medical students (n=11) to assess what they enjoyed and gained from leading the workshops.
Results As illustrated in table 1, the number of pupils who selected ‘Yes’ on the questionnaire increased in all three parameters after the session. This demonstrated the workshop was able to increase the number of students who felt confident in their knowledge of the content delivered. When asked to rate the session, 85% of students responded with ‘Brilliant’ and 9% responded with ‘Very Good’. Additionally, all teachers either ‘Strongly Agreed’ or ‘Agreed’ that the workshop was relevant and appropriate for the age group and were interested in having further sessions. Furthermore, medical student feedback responses indicated the project was a great opportunity to engage with children, practice public speaking skills, and gain confidence.
Conclusions Overall, the feedback received was positive and encouraging. The results show the workshops have successfully engaged with pupils, creating an exciting environment to learn about nutrition. Ultimately, early encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices in childhood may be critical to the development of healthier long-term habits (Llargues et al., 2011). In conclusion, the Food for Thought Project could be an effective school-based intervention to help combat childhood obesity and other lifestyle diseases that may develop later in life.
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