Abstract

Introduction: Against the context of 34% overweight in the school population of Costa Rica and within the framework of the course of the School of Nutrition (SNu) of the University of Costa Rica, called UN-2030 Module IV: Food and Nutritional Situation in the Institutional Environment II, SNu students carried out an educational intervention for the prevention of obesity and the promotion of health, in nine public schools in Circuit 06 of La Union Canton. Methodology: The data corresponding to 12 intervention projects, collected from August to November 2016 and documented in 9 final course reports, were analyzed. The projects were divided into three stages. Diagnostic phase: Anthropometric data and lifestyle habits were analyzed in a sample of 1382 children (N= 3802 preschoolers and school children enrolled), as well as assessment of meals offered in the school environment. Intervention phase: work was done with data from 35 educational sessions conducted by SNu students for 1004 children, 70 teachers, 12 SAI collaborators, four clerks and seven parents, collected in instruments designed in the course for that purpose. Evaluation phase: Formative and summative evaluation information was analyzed. Results: Only two schools with an overweight prevalence below the national average and were reported for all, factors widely mentioned in the literature as favoring an obesogenic environment (related to both food and physical activity). The use of play with children and constructivist sessions (learning by doing) with adults, were well accepted in the implementation. There are no professional nutritionist counterparts in the institutions.  No change in eating habits could be observed in eight weeks of intervention. Conclusions: Interventions with teacher and management support were more successful. The use of play for the nutritional education of children is considered an opportunity. Eight weeks of intervention allowed changes in knowledge, but not in practices. The lack of parental involvement is a concern.

Keywords: childhood obesity, nutritional education, education, healthy eating