Nutrition-related health behaviours and prevalence of overweight and obesity among Polish children and adolescents

Paulina Wojtyła-Buciora, Barbara Stawińska-Witoszyńska, Aneta Klimberg, Andrzej Wojtyła, Małgorzata Goździewska, Krzysztof Wojtyła, Jacek Piątek, Cezary Wojtyła, Marian Sygit, Iwona Ignyś, Jerzy T Marcinkowski
Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine: AAEM 2013, 20 (2): 332-40

INTRODUCTION: An adequate mode of nutrition is among the most important environmental factors affecting the development of Man and maintenance of a good health status. An improper selection of nutrients and irregular consumption of meals may lead to overweight and obesity.

OBJECTIVE: The characteristics of health behaviours of the examined population of schoolchildren, with consideration of nutrition and body weight disorders. A comparison of the opinions of schoolchildren and their parents concerning health behaviours. Development of guidelines for educational programmes carried out in the place of residence of the population of schoolchildren and their parents.

MATERIALS AND METHOD: The survey covered a randomised group of schoolchildren attending elementary and secondary schools in the Kalisz Province and province of the city of Kalisz. The study was conducted in May and June 2009, in a randomly selected representative group of 1,100 boys and girls from classes V and VI of elementary schools, and 1,100 secondary school adolescents aged 16-19 and their parents. The studies of schoolchildren attending elementary and secondary schools were compared with the all-Polish studies of junior high school adolescents in the school year 2006-2007.

RESULTS: The respondents most often consumed 3-4 meals; however, as many as 26% of junior high school adolescents and 27% of secondary school adolescents admitted that they consume only one meal daily. The schoolchildren show inadequate nutritional habits concerning an insufficient consumption of fruits, vegetables and fish, in favour of high calorific meals and sweet snacks and drinks. Parents improperly assess the body weight of their children and perceive them as slimmer, which is not confirmed by the BMI value for age and gender.

CONCLUSIONS: Systematic monitoring and analysis of changes in the health behaviours of adolescents should be a basis for planning health education and promotion programmes. Educational programmes concerning various aspects of health should be implemented in an organized and complementary way, directed not only at schools, but also at entire families and local communities. Knowledge, beliefs, skills and attitudes towards health acquired during the period of adolescence decide about life style in adulthood.

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