Research Article

Can a nutritional sciences undergraduate ambassador scheme improve the diet of secondary school children through education?

Camilla J. Peterson

University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Received:

11 Oct 2009

Accepted:

18 Apr 2010

Published:

31 May 2010

Volume:

3

Issue:

2

Keywords:

childhood obesity, communication, healthy eating, National Curriculum, school placement

Abstract:

Childhood obesity is a worsening epidemic in the UK. Schools are increasingly being targeted as an intervention setting for this problem. Currently, teachers are poorly equipped to educate pupils on healthy eating as they frequently lack experience in this area. The Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS) provides a framework for awarding academic credits to undergraduates primarily from science and technology disciplines to take on the role of an ambassador for their subject. The UAS scheme includes a placement in a school or college setting. In the context of a BSc in Nutrition, the undergraduate can, therefore, act as a nutritional ambassador within the school environment, contributing their specialist knowledge of healthy eating. In doing so the student can potentially influence the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of pupils in relation to healthy eating, whilst enhancing their own key skills base including communication and reflective learning skills. The aim of this project was to examine the effect an undergraduate ambassador for nutrition had on the dietary knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of secondary school pupils in Year 10 (aged 14 and 15, National Curriculum Key Stage 4). A major objective of the project was to develop and deliver a lesson plan centred on healthy eating. The impact the lesson had on dietary knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of pupils was assessed using questionnaires and food diaries, completed by pupils before and after the lesson. There was a small increase in healthy eating knowledge. However, there was no significant effect on healthy eating attitudes or behaviours of secondary school pupils. In addition, pupils gave negative responses towards learning about healthy eating in school. These results indicate the school environment may be an unsuitable setting for childhood obesity interventions.

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