Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.P.H.

Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Karen Liller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karen Liller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lauri Wright, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wei Wang, Ph.D.

Keywords

After-school program, Children, Nutrition, Physical activity

Abstract

With prevalence rates of obesity among children and adolescents steadily rising, childhood obesity and overweight has become a public health concern. Publically funded elementary schools are in a unique position to provide children with opportunities regarding the promotion of physical activity and healthy nutritional behaviors. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to conduct exploratory research to investigate the dietary habits of elementary school students enrolled in four Hillsborough County Out-of-School Time (HOST) care programs. Methods: The study utilized a quantitative, non-experimental study design. The instruments that were used in this research included a new questionnaire that was titled “All about You Yesterday”. This paper questionnaire was a combination of questions from the Physical Questionnaire for Older Children, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and Day in The Life Of Questionnaire. The questionnaire gathered information about what the students had eaten the day before. It also allowed for collection of students’ gender, age, and grade level, physical activity levels, and the amount of time they spent being sedentary. Dietary data collected from the questionnaire was inputted into the ASA-24-Kids program for calculating Healthy Eating Index scores. Scores were examined to categorize the children’s diets as: poor, needs improvement, and good. This data was plotted into SAS to determine if there were patterns. The relationships between dietary and demographic factors were analyzed. A logistic regression model was used to test the association between dietary scores and amount of physical activity. Results: A total of 91 students participated in this study. The average score was categorized as needs improvement, as were the majority of the students’ diets. The findings showed a pattern that diets improved from third to fourth grade and declined in fifth grade. More males had diets that were categorized as needs improvement rather than poor, and site C had the most students with diet in the needs improvement category. However, none of the covariates were significant. The models used to test the association between the HEI scores and the amount of physical activity produced large p- values (> 0.05), which indicates weak evidence against the null hypothesis that states that there is no association. The same was true for the association between sedentary levels and the HEI categories. Conclusions: The study showed that, regardless of having the opportunity to eat nutritious meals, a great number of after-school children had diets that were categorized as poor. Findings also showed that there was no association between diet and the amount of physical activity that the after-school children participated in; nor did the diets have an association with the sedentary levels reported. Recommendations: In an effort to improve the diets of elementary school children, schools should encourage their students to try fruits and vegetables that are being offered through taste tests. If the meals that are offered during the taste tests are enjoyed then they should be offered as part of the school’s lunch or snack. After school programs should also offer these taste tests and include short nutritional lessons into their programs where children are also given the opportunity to cook and eat healthy snacks.

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