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Nutrition needs to be part of the primary school curriculum.

What are we waiting for ? Following NEAPS 1999 pilot programme positive changes were seen in children's eating behaviour for healthier foodstuffs.

In 1999 a pilot programme carried out by (NEAPS) was implemented into eight primary schools to find out if nutrition taught in primary schools could have an effect of healthy eating choices of children. 23 years later with clear evidence, no nutritional programme has been implemented in our schools! With 9 children in our year 6 classes overweight and obese, childhood obesity poses a real health challenge. 55% of obese children go onto become obese adults.

Study Objective: To assess the impact and suitability of a pilot dietary educational programme for primary school pupils. The Nutrition Education at Primary School (NEAPS) programme aimed to build awareness of the benefits of healthy eating, induce positive behaviour change and increase the children's knowledge. Study Design: A comparative quasi-experimental study with follow-up after 3 months. Study Setting: Eight primary schools in the Eastern and North Western Health Boards and three control schools in the same board regions. Study Subjects: Data were used from 821 Irish school children aged 8-10 years old. Study Methods: The education programme comprised 20 sessions over 10 weeks including circular worksheets, homework assignments and an aerobic exercise regime. At baseline and after 3 months pupils completed food diaries and a validated food pairing questionnaire on food behaviour, knowledge and preferences. Study Results: Significant differences were found in the intervention children's behaviour and preference levels after the NEAPS programme (P < 0.01 in both sections). Knowledge levels were very high at baseline and though some individual items improved, average change overall was not significant. Rural children appeared to benefit more in behaviour and preferences from the programme (P <0.01). The NEAPS programme appeared to be less effective in pupils in disadvantaged areas (P < 0.01 for each of the sections: behaviour, preference and knowledge). One hundred and eighty-seven children completed food diaries. The intervention children's consumption of fruit and vegetables increased, and they consumed less salty snacks after the programme. Rural children were confirmed to have healthier diets at baseline. Study Conclusions: Following the NEAPS pilot programme positive changes were seen in the school children's eating behaviour and preferences for healthier foodstuffs. This suggests successful development of a culturally sensitive nutrition education programme for school children aged 8-10 years. What are we waiting for?

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