Tuesday, October 28, 2014
There is currently a lack of information regarding the eating and activity habits of preschool children in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. In February and March 2014, through a partnership with the Upper Grand District School Board and Wellington Catholic District School Board, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health embarked on a surveillance study of kindergarten students across the region using NutriSTEP® (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler). This tool is a valid and reliable, parent-administered nutrition screening tool. The goal of the surveillance was to determine kindergarten student risk for nutrition-related problems as well as to inform future Public Health programming and interventions.
Packages including a NutriSTEP® screening tool, How to Build a Healthy Preschooler educational brochure and a pre-paid, addressed envelope were distributed to kindergarten students with the help of both school boards and kindergarten teachers. Parents filled out NutriSTEP® at home and mailed the completed tool to Public Health where it was securely stored and analyzed.
A total of 5432 surveys were distributed with a sample rate of 22.85%. Overall risk for nutrition-related problems was relatively low; 4.7% of students scored high risk for nutrition-related problems, 11.1% were moderate risk and 84.2% were low risk. Primary areas of concern were consumption of grains, fruit and vegetables, use of supplements, exposure to TV while eating and parental control during meals. Notably, about 1 in 8 respondents indicated that they have difficulty buying food to feed their child at least sometimes. The level of food insecurity noted in this study (13.2%) is troubling as children who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience poorer overall health.
Few differences were found between priority and non-priority neighbourhoods. However, significant differences did exist between counties on a number of NutriSTEP® questions including intake of grains, fruit and fast food, recreational screen time, TV watching while eating and risk level. These results have led to the following recommendations.
1. Promote vegetable and fruit consumption and family meals, including awareness raising, education and skill building. Partner with other community groups for greater impact.
2. Create supportive environments for vegetable and fruit consumption where children live, learn and play, including child care centres, schools and recreation programs.
3. Continue to support collaborative partnerships with community groups who advocate for income security, and play a role in addressing food insecurity in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
4. Champion public policies supportive of vegetables and fruit access and consumption.
5. Continue to promote and make NutriSTEP® (or Nutri-eSTEP) available throughout the community.
6. Further explore parents’ attitudes, beliefs, barriers and facilitators to getting their children to eat grains, vegetables and fruit.
7. Conduct a similar survey of kindergarten students in 3-4 years time