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Keywords:

  • physical activity;
  • rural health;
  • elementary schools;
  • obesity

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Childhood obesity has become a national public health crisis in America. Physical inactivity and unhealthy eating behaviors may contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic. School-based healthy lifestyle interventions play a promising role in preventing and controlling childhood obesity. A comprehensive school-based healthy lifestyle intervention was implemented in 4 rural elementary schools in Kentucky.

METHODS

The intervention included 4 goals: improving physical education, health education, family/community involvement, and school wellness policies. Children's physical activity was assessed by pedometer, and nutrition was assessed by a previous day recall survey in January (baseline), February (t1), March (t2), April (t3), and May (t4) of 2011.

RESULTS

The intervention had significant effects on increasing the percentages of children meeting physical activity (1% vs 5%, p < .01) and nutrition (15% vs 26%, p < .01) recommendations. The effects of the intervention on physical activity and nutrition depended on school, grade, and age of the children. There was an increasing linear trend of physical activity and an increasing quadratic trend of nutrition over time among children.

CONCLUSIONS

The intervention had beneficial effects in improving healthy behaviors among children. Further studies are needed to assess its long-term effects and cost-effectiveness.