Measuring and modelling body mass index among a cohort of urban children living with disadvantage


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To report on baseline outcomes of body mass index, eating habits and physical activity of a cohort of urban disadvantaged children from a longitudinal evaluation of a school based, health promoting initiative.


The healthy schools programme was developed for implementation in schools located in disadvantaged areas of Dublin, Ireland.


A prospective, cohort study design was implemented.


A 3-year longitudinal evaluation was conducted in five intervention and two comparison schools between 2009–2011. Data were collected on each participating child to determine their eating habits, levels of physical activity and body mass index at year 1 (baseline), year 2 and year 3. Independent t-tests were used to compare mean values, chi-square and Fishers exact tests were used to compare proportions at baseline.


Participation rates were over 50%. Older children reported eating on average more fruit and vegetables than younger children; breakfast was often eaten on the way to, or in school and in one age group 16·7% of intervention children reported they did not eat breakfast that day. Levels of physical activity varied with over 70% of younger children stating they never played a sport. In intervention schools over one quarter of all children were either overweight or obese. A comparison was conducted between the proportion of 9-year olds overweight and obese in our disadvantaged cohort and a national random sample of 8500 9-year olds and no important differences were observed.


Baseline results indicate that body mass index rates particularly among pre adolescent, urban disadvantaged girls are of concern.