Preschool children and excess weight: the impact of a low complexity intervention in public day care centers
Introduction: childhood obesity is a major public health problem, affecting children even at early ages. Objective: to assess the impact of dietary intervention and relatively simple physical activity on the nutritional state of preschoolers. Method: this was an intervention study in public daycare centers targeting children from 2 to 4 years of age, in the State of São Paulo. The sample consisted of 9 daycare centers covering 578 children, with 264 children in the intervention group (IG) and 314 in the comparison group (CG). Intervention was focused on modifications in diet and physical activity, avoiding overloading the routine of daycare centers, for duration of one year. A zBMI score > 1 (zBMI) and < 2 was considered risk of being overweight, and > 2 zBMI was considered excess weight (overweight and obese). Analysis was done by frequency calculations, comparisons of proportions by χ2, mean comparisons by t-student and calculations according to Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Results: IG showed an inverse correlation between the initial zBMI of the children and the difference with the zBMI at the end of the intervention (rP = -0.39, p <0.0001). The mean difference of zBMI of the overweight children in IG between the beginning and the end of the study period was negative (-0.46 z score), indicating weight reduction, while the children in the CG was positive (+0. 17 z score) (p = 0.0037). Conclusion: intervention in diet and physical activity in overweight preschool children in daycare centers could have a favorable impact on the evolution of their nutritional state.
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