Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

(S)Partners for Heart Health: a school-based program for enhancing physical activity and nutrition to promote cardiovascular health in 5th grade students

Joseph J Carlson12*, Joey C Eisenmann34, Karin A Pfeiffer3, Kathleen B Jager5, Scott T Sehnert12, Kimbo E Yee3, Rita A Klavinski6 and Deborah L Feltz3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiology, Division of Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

2 Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

3 Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

5 College of Social Science, Department of Family and Child Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

6 Michigan State University Extension, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:420  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-420

Published: 22 December 2008



The American Heart Association Position Statement on Cardiovascular Health Promotion in Public Schools encourages school-based interventions for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) through risk factor prevention or reduction in children with an emphasis on creating an environment that promotes healthy food choices and physical activity (PA). In an effort to address issues related to CVD risk factors including obesity in Michigan children, a multi-disciplinary team of Michigan State University (MSU) faculty, clinicians, and health profession students was formed to "(S)partner" with elementary school physical education (PE) teachers and MSU Extension staff to develop and implement a cost-effective, sustainable program aimed at CVD risk factor prevention and management for 5th grade students. This (S)partnership is intended to augment and improve the existing 5th grade PE, health and nutrition curriculum by achieving the following aims: 1) improve the students' knowledge, attitudes and confidence about nutrition, PA and heart health; 2) increase the number of students achieving national recommendations for PA and nutrition; and 3) increase the number of students with a desirable CVD risk factor status based on national pediatric guidelines. Secondary aims include promoting school staff and parental support for heart health to help children achieve their goals and to provide experiential learning and service for MSU health profession students for academic credit.


This pilot effectiveness study was approved by the MSU IRB. At the beginning and the end of the school year students undergo a CVD risk factor assessment conducted by MSU medical students and graduate students. Key intervention components include eight lesson plans (conducted bi-monthly) designed to promote heart healthy nutrition and PA behaviors conducted by PE teachers with assistance from MSU undergraduate dietetic and kinesiology students (Spartners). The final 10 minutes of each lesson, MSU Spartners conduct small breakout/discussion groups with the 5th grade students. Additionally, each Spartner case manages/mentors two to three 5th grade students using a web-based goal setting and tracking protocol throughout the school year.


This paper describes the rationale, development, and methods of the Spartners for Heart Health program. This is a multi-level intervention designed to promote heart healthy behaviors and prevent or manage CVD risk factors in children. We believe this will be a viable sustainable intervention that can be disseminated and adopted by other institutions with minimal cost by engaging college students as an integral part of the measurement and intervention teams.