Does School-Based Health Promotion Affect Physical Activity on Weekends? And, Does It Reach Those Students Most in Need of Health Promotion?
To determine whether a school-based health promotion program affects children’s weekend physical activity and whether this effect varies according to socioeconomic-status.
This was a quasi-experimental trial of school-based programs on physical activity levels implemented in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Alberta, Canada. In 2009 and 2011, 7 full days of pedometer data were collected from cross-sectional samples of grade 5 students (age 10–11 years) from 10 intervention schools in low-socioeconomic neighbourhoods and 20 comparison schools in middle-socioeconomic neighbourhoods. Multilevel models assessed differences in step-counts between intervention and comparison groups over-time by weight (objectively measured) and socioeconomic status subgroups.
In 2009, children from intervention schools were less active on weekends relative to comparison schools (9212 vs. 11186 steps/day p<0.01). Two years later, daily step-counts on weekend days among children in low socioeconomic intervention schools increased such that they approximated those of children from middle socioeconomic comparison schools (12148 vs. 12121 steps/day p = 0.96). The relative difference in steps between intervention and comparison schools on weekends reduced from -21.4% to 0.2% following the intervention. The normalization of weekend step counts was similar for normal weight (–21.4% to +2.0%) and overweight (-19.1 to +3.9%) children, and was balanced across socioeconomic subgroups.
These data suggest that school-based health promotion is effective for reducing inequities in physical activity levels outside school hours. Investments in school-based health promotion lead to behavior modification beyond the school environment.