INTRODUCTION: Obesity among preschool children is more common among lower-income families. Prevalence of type 2 diabetes in U.S. Mexican and African American populations has steadily increased and is associated with modifiable risk factors, such as poor dietary habits.
AIM: The purpose of this study was to conduct an assessment of the preschool Bienestar/NEEMA Health Program, focusing on: students’ knowledge increase, teacher input on the classroom materials used, parental feedback on take-home activities, and input on the program's food service training by the school district's nutrition coordinator.
SAMPLE: Curriculum was implemented and assessed in one Head Start school over a six-week period. Teacher’s focus group discussion surrounded the classroom curriculum, parents attended a discussion of the parent curriculum and one school food service personnel was interviewed regarding the school food service personnel curriculum.
RESULTS: Three and 4-year-old students (n=104) in Spanish-speaking, English-speaking, and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes participated in the study. Knowledge assessments showed a slight increase in nutrition knowledge. Teachers indicated the materials were cognitively appropriate, but materials should use actual photographs and not clip art to teach core concepts. Parents appreciated learning how chronic disease is nutritionally related and how to feed their families on a budget.
IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTH DISPARITIES IN PUBLIC HEALTH: Nutritional literacy is critical for decreasing the risk and financial burden of obesity and chronic disease in America. Food preference begins at an early age and sets the stage for lifelong eating habits. Developing appropriate and inexpensive nutrition education materials for preschool children should include social scientists, nutritionists and food scientists as an integral part of the interdisciplinary public health team focusing on decreasing health disparities.
Key Take Away Points
Nutrition literacy is key to glycemic control since consuming a carbohydrate controlled and low-fat diet is important in controlling diabetes.
Establishing healthy eating habits early may help in the prevention and financial burden of type 2 diabetes over the lifespan, especially in low-income families.
Including members of the target audience in the development, assessment, and revision of nutrition education materials is critical.
When teaching young children about nutrition, materials should include visuals the learner can relate to and understand.
Cynthia Warren, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at Texas Woman's University Department of Nutrition and Food Science.
This study was funded by the Texas Woman's University New Investigator Research Enhancement Award.
"Addressing nutritional literacy in preschool learning environments,"
Journal of Family Strengths: Vol. 17
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol17/iss1/6