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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A novel school-based intervention to improve nutrition knowledge in children: cluster randomised controlled trial

Rajalakshmi R Lakshman1*, Stephen J Sharp1, Ken K Ong12 and Nita G Forouhi1

Author affiliations

1 MRC Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UK

2 Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:123  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-123

Published: 10 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Improving nutrition knowledge among children may help them to make healthier food choices. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness and acceptability of a novel educational intervention to increase nutrition knowledge among primary school children.

Methods

We developed a card game 'Top Grub' and a 'healthy eating' curriculum for use in primary schools. Thirty-eight state primary schools comprising 2519 children in years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11 years) were recruited in a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial. The main outcome measures were change in nutrition knowledge scores, attitudes to healthy eating and acceptability of the intervention by children and teachers.

Results

Twelve intervention and 13 control schools (comprising 1133 children) completed the trial. The main reason for non-completion was time pressure of the school curriculum. Mean total nutrition knowledge score increased by 1.1 in intervention (baseline to follow-up: 28.3 to 29.2) and 0.3 in control schools (27.3 to 27.6). Total nutrition knowledge score at follow-up, adjusted for baseline score, deprivation, and school size, was higher in intervention than in control schools (mean difference = 1.1; 95% CI: 0.05 to 2.16; p = 0.042). At follow-up, more children in the intervention schools said they 'are currently eating a healthy diet' (39.6%) or 'would try to eat a healthy diet' (35.7%) than in control schools (34.4% and 31.7% respectively; chi-square test p < 0.001). Most children (75.5%) enjoyed playing the game and teachers considered it a useful resource.

Conclusions

The 'Top Grub' card game facilitated the enjoyable delivery of nutrition education in a sample of UK primary school age children. Further studies should determine whether improvements in nutrition knowledge are sustained and lead to changes in dietary behaviour.