Change of school in early adolescence and adverse obesity-related dietary behavior: a longitudinal cohort study, Victoria, Australia, 2013-2014
journal contributionposted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Jennifer Marks, Lisa BarnettLisa Barnett, Steven AllenderSteven Allender
INTRODUCTION: Environments that facilitate energy-dense, nutrient-poor diets are associated with childhood obesity. We examined the effect of a change of school environment on the prevalence of obesity and related dietary behavior in early adolescence. METHODS: Fifteen schools in Victoria, Australia, were recruited at random from the bottom 2 strata of a 5-level socioeconomic scale. In 9 schools, students in grade 6 primary school transitioned to different schools for grade 7 secondary school, whereas in 6 schools, students remained in the same school from grade 6 to grade 7. Time 1 measures were collected from students (N = 245) in grade 6 (aged 11-13 y). Time 2 data were collected from 243 (99%) of the original cohort in grade 7. Data collected were dietary recall self-reported by students via questionnaire, measured height and weight of students, and aspects of the school food environment via school staff survey. Comparative and mixed model regression analyses were conducted. RESULTS: Of 243 students, 63% (n = 152) changed schools from time 1 to time 2, with no significant difference in weight status. Students who changed schools reported an increase in purchases of after-school snack food, greater sweetened beverage intake, fewer fruit-and-vegetable classroom breaks, and less encouragement for healthy eating compared with students who remained in the same school. School staff surveys showed that more primary than secondary schools had written healthy canteen policies and fewer days of canteen or food services operation. CONCLUSION: A change of school environment has negative effects on children's obesity-related dietary behavior. Consistent policy is needed across school types to support healthy eating in school environments.