Promotion of CV Health in Preschool Children

Educational intervention of preschoolers and parents in Colombia improved the knowledge, attitudes and habits of healthy lifestyles, according to a 36-month cohort follow-up of the promotion of cardiovascular health in preschool children trial, presented Nov. 18 as part of AHA 2013, and published simultaneously in the American Journal of Medicine.

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The study looked at 1,216 children, 3-5 years of age, and 928 parents in Bogotá, Colombia, who participated in a structured educational curriculum that used Sesame Street's Healthy Habits for Life materials, which included the topics: "loving and caring for your body; eating a variety of foods, with a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables as 'everyday foods' and other foods (such as cookies) as 'sometime' foods; and physical activity as a way to feel great and play with your friends, with opportunities for exercise in many settings."

Results showed that after 36 months there was "an increase in mean knowledge, attitudes and habits scores at 36 months, compared to baseline: 87.94 vs. 76.15 (p<0.001); 86.39 vs. 57.03 (p<0.001); and 66.29 vs. 48.72 (p<0.001) respectively." Further, they observed a "small but significant improvement" in knowledge and attitude scores in parents: 73.45 vs. 70.01 (p<0.001); and 78.08 vs. 74.65 (p<0.001). In addition, "the proportion of eutrophic children increased from 62.1 percent at baseline to 75.0 percent at 36 months (p<0.0001)."

The authors note that their results "are consistent with mounting evidence that illustrates how preschool- and school-based interventions targeting both diet and physical activity, involving multiple stakeholders, integrating educational activities into the school curriculum, and using social cognitive theory in the development of the intervention, have the potential to improve dietary behavior and physical activity, and to prevent unhealthy body weights in low- and middle-income countries."

"As a result of our successful pilot intervention in Colombia, the program has also been implemented in Spain, where we have expanded our reach to 20,000 more children," said Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, FACC, the study's principal investigator and director of Mount Sinai Heart at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "Additional countries are now joining in the implementation of this vital childhood intervention allowing for increased education about the benefits of a heart-healthy lifestyle to better protect our world's tiniest hearts."

Moving forward, Jaime Céspedes, MD, lead author of the study adds that "cardiovascular health promotion should be started as early as possible and be integrated into all aspects of a child's life, including family and school."

Keywords: Child, Preschool, Life Style, Follow-Up Studies, Health Promotion, Body Weight, Motor Activity, Diet, Habits, Curriculum, Colombia

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