Preschoolers in an underserved community who took part in a health promotion educational program aimed at establishing health behaviors showed a 2.2-fold increase in knowledge, attitudes and habits compared to their classmates who did not take part in the program, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Earlier research suggests preschool-based interventions offer promise to instill healthy behaviors in children and these early prevention strategies may contribute to reducing heart disease later in life. Some researchers believe these strategies may eventually contribute to reducing the global burden of heart disease.
The researchers in the FAMILIA trial enrolled 562 children from 15 Head Start preschools in Harlem, New York, to determine the impact of a health promotion educational intervention in a diverse, underserved community. Children randomized to the intervention took part in a four-month educational program to instill healthy behaviors using topics such as diet, physical activity, understanding how the human body and heart work, and emotions. Children in the control group continued to receive the standard curriculum.
The researchers then looked at the change from baseline in overall knowledge, attitudes and habits (KAH) score of the children at five months. Children in the intervened schools showed an improvement 2.2-fold higher in KAH scores toward a healthy lifestyle, with the highest effect found in children who received 75 percent or more of the curriculum. The researchers found physical activity and body/heart awareness components, as well as knowledge and attitudes, were the main drivers of the effect.