Healthy living as early as pre-school
Queen’s University, the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and the Harvard Medical School are teaming up to find ways to prevent obesity among pre-school children.
The Canada and Mexico Battling Childhood Obesity (CAMBIO) program, based at Queen’s, is funding a study to gather input from childcare staff and parents. Nearly 15 per cent of preschool children in Mexico are obese, and 26 per cent of school-aged children are overweight.
“This project is an example of how our three countries can cooperate by sharing expertise and resources to help teach children, their families and childcare workers about healthy eating,” said food sociologist Elaine Power, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s and co-investigator. Dr. Power will be training Mexican-based researchers on qualitative methodology to be used in the survey.
Preschool children are more likely than school-aged children to change their eating habits. The study will aim to identify the most effective ways for childcare workers and parents to work together to prevent childhood obesity.
“Children in government-funded day care centres are eating two to three meals per day as well as two snacks,” says Dr. Power. “There’s never before been a study in Mexico that assesses the role that the child care setting can have on children and their families when it comes to eating and healthy lifestyle choices.”
This project is being led by Dr. Hortensia Reyes Morales, Director of Health Systems Determinants and Challenges at the Centre for Health Systems Research, National Institute of Public Health in Mexico. Also involved is Dr. Jess Haines, an instructor in the Obesity Prevention Program in the Department of Population Medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at the Harvard Medical School.
The survey results will be used to develop an obesity prevention strategy for a larger study that is being funded by Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology.
CAMBIO is a $1.6 million CDN program based at Queen’s University and funded by a Teasdale-Corti Grant from the International Development Research Council, on behalf of the Global Health Research Initiative.
CAMBIO’s long-term goals are to increase research capacity and knowledge transfer within Mexico, and to promote partnerships and collaborations. To achieve these goals, four key activities are being undertaken:
• Development and delivery of an annual short course on obesity;
• Development of a collaborative program of research;
• Faculty and student exchanges and researcher visits; and
• Partnership and networking.
Current CAMBIO Research Projects involving Queen’s researchers:
• An assessment of environmental changes in Mexican schools that have the biggest impact on health eating and physical activity - Margarita Safdie and Lucie Levesque, co-principal investigators.
• The creation of a social marketing strategy focused on families and teachers aimed at reducing the consumption of sweetened beverages and increasing the consumption of water among Mexican school children. Lucie Levesque, co-principal investigator.