Howest University for Applied Sciences, Belgium
Title: Evaluation of a real world intervention using professional football players to promote a healthy diet and physical activity in children and adolescents from a lower socio-economic background: A controlled pretest-posttest design
Biography: Dubuy Veerle
Background: The increasing rates of obesity among children and adolescents, especially in those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, emphasize the need for interventions promoting a healthy diet and physical activity. The present study aimed to examine the effectiveness of the ‘Health Scores’ program, which combined professional football player role models with a school-based program to promote a healthy diet and physical activity to socially vulnerable children and adolescents. Methods: The intervention was implemented in two settings: professional football clubs and schools. Socially vulnerable children and adolescents (n=165 intervention group, n=440 control group, aged 10-14 year) provided self-reported data on dietary habits and physical activity before and after the four-month intervention. Intervention effects were evaluated using repeated measures analysis of variance. In addition, a process evaluation was conducted. Results: No intervention effects were found for several dietary behaviors, including consumption of breakfast, fruit, soft drinks or sweet and savory snacks. Positive intervention effects were found for self-efficacy for having a daily breakfast (p<0.01), positive attitude towards vegetables consumption (p<0.01) and towards lower soft drink consumption (p<0.001). A trend towards significance (p<0.10) was found for self-efficacy for reaching the physical activity guidelines. For sports participation no significant intervention effect was found. In total, 92 pupils completed the process evaluation, the feedback was largely positive. Conclusions: The ‘Health Scores’ intervention was successful in increasing psycho-social correlates of a healthy diet and PA. The use of professional football players as a credible source for health promotion was appealing to socially vulnerable children and adolescents.