The healthy primary school of the future : study protocol of a quasi-experimental study

Willeboordse, M. ; Jansen, M. W. ; Van Den Heijkan, S. N. ; Simons, A. ; Winkens, B. ; De Groot, R. H. M. ; Bartelink, N. ; Kremers, S. P. ; Van Assema, P. ; Savelberg, H. H. ; De Neubourg, E. ; Borghans, L. ; Schils, T. ; Coppens, K. M. ; Dietvorst, R. ; Ten Hoopen, R. ; Coomans, F. ; Klosse, S. ; Conjaerts, M. H. J. ; Oosterhoff, M. ; Joore, M. A. ; Ferreira, I. ; Muris, P. ; Bosma, H. ; Toppenberg, H. L. ; Van Schayck, C. P. (2016)

CITATION: Willeboordse, M., et al . 2016. The healthy primary school of the future : study protocol of a quasi-experimental study. BMC Public Health, 16:639, doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3301-9.

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Background: Unhealthy lifestyles in early childhood are a major global health challenge. These lifestyles often persist from generation to generation and contribute to a vicious cycle of health-related and social problems. This design article presents a study evaluating the effects of two novel healthy school interventions. The main outcome measure will be changes in children ’ s body mass index (BMI). In addition, lifestyle behaviours, academic achievement, child well-being, socio-economic differences, and societal costs will be examined. Methods: In close collaboration with various stakeholders, a quasi-experimental study was developed, for which children of four intervention schools ( n = 1200) in the southern part of the Netherlands are compared with children of four control schools ( n = 1200) in the same region. The interventions started in November 2015. In two of the four intervention schools, a whole-school approach named ‘ The Healthy Primary School of the Future ’ ,is implemented with the aim of improving physical activity and dietary behaviour. For this intervention, pupils are offered an extended curriculum, including a healthy lunch, more physical exercises, and social and educational activities, next to the regular school curriculum. In the two other intervention schools, a physical-activity school approach called ‘ The Physical Activity School ’ , is implemented, which is essentially similar to the other intervention, except that no lunch is provided. The interventions proceed during a period of 4 years. Apart from the effectiveness of both interventions, the process, the cost-effectiveness, and the expected legal implications are studied. Data collection is conducted within the school system. The baseline measurements started in September 2015 and yearly follow-up measurements are taking place until 2019. Discussion: A whole-school approach is a new concept in the Netherlands. Due to its innovative, multifaceted nature and sound scientific foundation, these integrated programmes have the potential to form a template for primary schools worldwide. The effects of this approach may extend further than the outcomes associated with well-being and academic achievement, potentially impacting legal and cultural aspects in our society.

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