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Br J Nutr. 2002 Sep;88(3):315-24.

Health and nutrition education in primary schools of Crete: changes in chronic disease risk factors following a 6-year intervention programme.

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  • 1Preventive Medicine and Nutrition Clinic, School of Medicine, University of Crete, PO Box 1393, Crete, Greece.


The effectiveness of a health and nutrition education programme, in changing certain chronic disease risk factors, was assessed after the 6 years intervention period was completed. The school-based intervention programme was applied to all children registered in the first grade (age 5.5-6.5 years) in 1992 in two counties of Crete, while the children from a third county served as a control group. In order to assess the effectiveness of the intervention, a variety of biological and behavioural parameters were measured before and following completion of the intervention in a randomly selected school-based sample of 602 intervention group (IG) and 444 control group (CG) pupils. At the end of the 6-year period, it was found that biochemical indices generally improved significantly more in the IG compared with the CG (mean change for IG v. CG was -0.27 v. -0.12 mmol/l for total cholesterol (TC); -0.07 v. +0.24 for TC:HDL and -0.13 v. +0.14 for LDL:HDL). Similarly, the changes observed in the anthropometric variables in the two groups were in favour of the IG (+3.68 v. +4.28 kg/m2 for BMI; +2.97 v. +4.47 mm for biceps skinfold). Total energy intake and consumption of total fat and saturated fat increased significantly less in the IG compared with the CG (+747.7 v. 1534.7 kJ (+178.7 v. +366.8 kcal); +5.9 v. +18.8 g and +0.8 v. +5.1 g respectively), while time devoted to leisure time physical activity and cardiovascular run test performance increased significantly more in the IG (+281 v. +174 min/week and +2.5 v. +1.2 stages respectively). The findings of the present study underline the importance of such programmes in health promotion and disease prevention. Although the long-term effects of these programmes can only be assessed by tracking this population through to adolescence and adulthood, these programmes seem to have the potential to lead to a healthier lifestyle and thus a reduction in risk factor levels.

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