The CHANGE study: a healthy-lifestyles intervention to improve rural children's diet quality

Juliana F W Cohen, Vivica I Kraak, Silvina F Choumenkovitch, Raymond R Hyatt, Christina D Economos
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2014, 114 (1): 48-53

BACKGROUND: Despite the high rates of overweight and obesity among rural children, there have been limited interventions reported to improve the diet quality of rural, low-income children in the United States.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to evaluate students' diet quality at baseline and after implementing the CHANGE (Creating Healthy, Active and Nurturing Growing-Up Environments) study, a 2-year (2007-2009) randomized, controlled, community- and school-based intervention to prevent unhealthy weight gain among rural school-aged children.

DESIGN: We used a school and community-based group randomized, controlled design.

PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: Data were collected in eight rural communities in California, Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina (one elementary school per community). Children in grades 1 to 6 participated in the study (n=432; mean age=8.65 years ± 1.6 years). Students' diets were assessed at baseline (spring or early fall 2008) and post intervention (spring 2009) using the Block Food Screener for ages 2 to 17 years.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES: Mixed-model analysis of variance was used to examine the effect of the CHANGE study intervention on students' diets. Results were adjusted for corresponding baseline dietary values, sex, age, grade, race/ethnicity, and state, with school included as a random effect nested within condition.

RESULTS: At the end of 1 year, students enrolled in the CHANGE study intervention schools consumed significantly more vegetables (0.08 cups/1,000 kcal/day; P=0.03) and combined fruits and vegetables (0.22 cups/1,000 kcal/day; P<0.05) compared with students in control schools. Students in the intervention schools also showed a reduction in the average daily dietary glycemic index (GI=-1.22; P<0.05) and a trend toward more fruit consumption (0.15 cups/1,000 kcal/day; P=0.07). There were no significant differences in students' consumption of whole grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes/potato products, saturated fat, added sugars, or dietary fiber consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: The CHANGE study enhanced some aspects of rural students' dietary intake. Implementing similar interventions in rural America can be promising to support vegetable consumption.

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