Education About Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Includes Listening to the Children
Background: Diets high in fruit and vegetables (F&V) are associated with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (CDC, 2008; Do et al., 2011). However, only 30-40% of children age 4-8 consume four servings of F&V and only 14% consume the recommended five servings a day (Guenther et al., 2006: USDA, 2007). School health education studies involving school aged children ( >5 years) have reported that positive and negative outcome messages can influence a child’s consumption of F&V’s with positive outcome messages having the most significant mediating effect (Reynolds et al. 2004). Similar studies are limited for preschool aged (< 5 years) children. The current study was designed to explore what preschool children hear and remember about fruit and vegetable messages.
Methods: School lunch-time F&V consumption of preschool children (n=201) was recorded over five days. Children (n=192) were individually interviewed about their knowledge, preference, and perceptions of fruits and vegetables using a picture card sort and open ended questions. Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) was utilized to categorize F&V messages conveyed by children. Descriptive statistics, Pearson’s correlation and one-way ANOVA were used for analysis.
Results: Preschool children convey a variety of information associated with F&V consumption that fits under SCT constructs. Positive outcome expectancies (POE), negative outcome expectancies (NOE), and prompts were most frequently stated. POEs were accompanied with a direct benefit valued by the child. Boys received negative reinforcements more than girls. Significant differences were observed based on socioeconomic status.
Conclusions and Implications: How parents, teachers, and health education professionals convey information about F&V’s can have an influence on children’s perceptions and preference. Parent modeling, availability/ accessibility and preference have typically been the default determinants of F&V consumption for young children (<5 years of age) (Rasmussen et al. 2006). However, preschool children (aged 4) in this study demonstrated an understanding of positive outcome expectancies by placing a direct value on the outcome stated. While preschool children (aged 4) have limited cognitive skills compared with school aged children, their understanding and insight into valued outcomes of consuming F&V may be more apparent than previously researched. Hence, assessing preschool children’s perceptions first, then tailoring health education messages according to why a child values a specific outcome from eating F&Vs may produce benefits in addition to known determinants of F&V consumption.
Society for Public Health Education Annual Conference (SOPHE)
Hansen, Andrew, Moya L. Alfonso, John S. Luque, Mondi Mason, Jen Nickelson, Robert L. Vogel.
"Education About Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Includes Listening to the Children."
Community Health Faculty Presentations.