Original Article

Effectiveness of a School-based Intervention to Increase Health Knowledge of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among Rural Mississippi Middle School Children

Authors: T Kristopher Harrell, PHARMD, Brenda M. Davy, PHD, RD, Jimmy L. Stewart, MD, Deborah S. King, PHARMD


Background: Few school-based interventions have been evaluated to assess health awareness among children in rural southern areas. The purpose of this controlled investigation was to increase health awareness among middle school-aged children residing in a racially diverse rural community in Mississippi.

Methods: This investigation assessed health knowledge before and after a 16-week school-based intervention in 205 fifth-grade students. Height, weight, BMI, body composition, waist circumference, dietary intake, blood lipids and lipoprotein concentrations, blood glucose concentrations, and resting blood pressure were measured to enhance student awareness of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Values in the intervention school were compared with those obtained simultaneously in a control school within the same community.

Results: The school-based intervention was effective in increasing health knowledge in the intervention as compared with the control school. Secondarily, it was effective in improving certain dietary behaviors. Utilizing health care professionals in the classroom to teach students appropriate lifestyles and actually measuring cardiovascular risk factors to increase awareness among students was effective in increasing overall health knowledge.

Conclusions: Health knowledge of rural adolescents can be increased through partnerships with schools and multidisciplinary teams of health care professionals. Ongoing efforts to reduce childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors are urgently needed, and information obtained during this investigation may be used in planning school-based interventions in other diverse, rural communities.

Key Points

* Children in rural areas of the southeast are at increased risk for overweight and obesity.

* Health awareness and dietary behavior is poor in these children.

* Simple interventions and partnerships between education and health systems can be beneficial in increasing school health.

* Comprehensive school-based interventions are needed for maximum effectiveness.

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