Children may have more and better opportunities to avoid unhealthy living habits related to obesity and cardiovascular disease when they are adults if they are well educated about healthy behavior during their pre-school years (three to five years) , according to the results of the FAMILIA project, directed by Valentin Fuster, director of the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC), published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"The interventions we implement in the school system are cheap and easy to implement and we hope that in the near future they can be integrated into schools across the country to promote healthy child behavior and ultimately reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease in the future, "explained Fuchster.
In fact, he continues, the results of this new study show that early intervention is effective for preschool children, although they also showed that the program can promote healthy behavior among their parents, mothers and teachers, greater impact. range.
In order to carry out the work led by the SHE-La Caixa Foundation with the scientific cooperation of the CNIC and Mount Sinai Hospital, researchers analyzed 562 children from 15 children from 15 different Harlem Children's Education Centers New York). The population of this area is predominantly African-American and Latin American, groups at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
At the beginning of the study, in order to evaluate their knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding diet, physical activity, functioning of the human body and heart, and emotions, all participants responded to a simple questionnaire that included images to facilitate understanding
For example, they were asked to choose which foods are the healthiest of a group that includes vegetables, fruits, cheesburgs or chips. They were also asked how often they run, jump, and play.
More effective for three-year-olds than for four-year-olds
Children from six children's schools (control group) had the usual training, while those from the other nine (intervention group) benefited from a different curriculum developed by cardiologists, psychologists and pedagogues. The program consisted of 38 hours of work in the classroom for four months in which teachers trained children in different aspects: food, body and heart awareness, physical activity and emotional management.
During this four-month period, fathers and mothers also participated in the program with 12 hours of specific activities with their children on weekends, including the purchase of fresh fruit in the supermarket and the choice of physical activity, avoiding sedentary behavior. After the four month period, the researchers provided the same questionnaire to all participating children and compared them.
The results show that pre-school children in the intervention group have improved their knowledge and attitudes towards healthy lifestyles by 12%, more than double the control group (5.5%). The children who improved most in the intervention group were those who received the lowest scores in the survey at the beginning of the study. In addition, those who have completed at least 75% of the program have benefited more than those who have received less than half.
Researchers also found that the program is more effective for four-year-olds than for three-year-olds, suggesting that this may be the appropriate age for starting the intervention, as four-year-olds are more mature and can keep information better (I)