Effects of a school based intervention to promote healthy habits in children 8-11 years old, living in the lowland area of Bologna Local Health Unit

R. Sacchetti, L. Dallolio, M. A. Musti, E. Guberti, A. Garulli, P. Beltrami, F. Castellazzi, E. Centis, C. Zenesini, C. Coppini, C. Rizzoli, M. Sardocardalano, E. Leoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: A school based health promotion intervention was performed with the aim of increasing physical activity and improving the dietary habits of primary school pupils, using integrated educational strategies involving schools, families, public bodies, sports associations and public health operators.

CONCLUSIONS: The results point to a positive assessment of the intervention, thus highlighting the importance of planning integrated and multisectorial actions in school-based programmes to promote correct dietary and motor habits and for the control of body weight, also involving non scholastic areas.

METHODS: The intervention concerned 11 classes during 3 school years from 2009-10 (231 third-year school children) to 2011-12 (234 fifth-year school children). Information was collected both before and after the intervention about the dietary habits and the physical activities practised by the children, using the questionnaires of the project !OKkio alla Salute! which were administered to both children and parents. At the same time anthropometric measurements were taken (height, weight, BMI) and motor skills were assessed using standardized tests: Sit & Reach, medicine-ball forward throw, standing long jump, 20 m running speed, and forward roll. At the end of the intervention 12 different expected outcomes were assessed (5 about dietary habits, 5 about motor habits, 1 about anthropometric characteristics, 1 about motor skills).

RESULTS: At baseline, 35.8% of the children show excess weight (23.4% overweight; 12.4% obese); this percentage falls to 29.3% (25.3% overweight; 4% obese) after the intervention (p <0.05). The dietary habits improve from the pre- to the post-intervention: there is a rise in the percentage of children who receive an adequate mid-morning snack (p <0.0001), a fall in the percentage of children who consume snacks and drinks after the dinner (p <0.01), and an increase in the percentage of those who take five or more portions of fruits and vegetables daily. The motor habits do not improve in the same way, since there is the increasing tendency with age to skip from a regular daily practice of physical exercise to favour of the occasional practice of a sport. The motor performances, compared after normalization for modifications due to the process of growth, improve between the third and fifth years of primary school, but with no significant differences. To achieve this objective more focused measures are necessary in the administration of moderate to intense physical exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-446
Number of pages15
JournalAnnali di igiene : medicina preventiva e di comunità
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • BMI
  • Dietary habits
  • Health promotion
  • Physical activity
  • Primary school

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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