Promotion of Healthy Nutrition Knowledge Through a Girls' Health Camp

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Adejoke B. Ayoola, PhD, RN1
Barbara Bosscher Timmermans, PhD, RN1
Josephine Granner, BSN2
Elise Veurink, BSN, RN1
Donald Bryant3
Arlene Hoogewerf, PhD4
(1)Department of Nursing, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
(2)Calvin College Department of Nursing, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
(3)Bryant's Healthcare Solutions, Caledonia, MI, USA
(4)Biology, Public Health, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Purpose: Obesity is one of the significant health problems affecting the population of the United States including adolescents. Consequences of poor nutritional choices and practices include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, poor daily health and well-being, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke among many other conditions. These mostly preventable conditions will affect quality of life, and life expectancy if not adequately addressed. To effectively promote the health of the younger generations and the future of the United States, it is essential to introduce the culture of health from a very early age and reinforce these discussions over a lifetime. This study examined whether a one-week health camp with well-focused nutrition sessions can improve nutrition knowledge and attitudes towards fruits and vegetables.

Methods: This study was guided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Action Framework, with a focus of the first Action, which is to make health a shared value, with a driver of creating a mindset and expectations that value health promotion and well-being. The camps included two one-week health promotion day camps designed for young girls ages 9 -15 years from low socioeconomic and diverse racial backgrounds in an urban medically underserved area. The camps focused on promoting a culture of health, educating girls about their bodies, leadership, and the health professions. Week 1 included 48 girls ages 9 – 12 years, and week 2 included 41 girls ages 12-15 years, with a total of 89 girls who participate in the post-camp surveys. Camp features daily health snacks and a college cafeteria lunch, nutrition and food preparation, among other health-related sessions. This is a simple descriptive study which employs a pre- and post-assessments approach to determine the impact of the HEALTH camp intervention among young girls.

Results: Week 1 focused on healthy beverages and colorful fruits and vegetables, and 12 foods from the questionnaire were featured in recipes. Post-test attitudes were improved for 15 foods, of which 8 were featured foods. For example, the post-test results show that there was a significant increase the percentage of girls who reported that they liked Kale (p=0.02). The post-test correct answer percentages increased for all five knowledge questions (p < 0.05 for three questions) including knowledge of the content of the fruits and types of vitamins in them. During posttest, 83.3% (versus 60.9% pretest; p=0.01) of the girls reported that the type of food they eat can make a difference in their chances of getting heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Week 2 focused on whole grains and better fast food choices, and 8 foods from the questionnaire were featured in recipes. Post-test attitudes were improved for 18 (including all 8 featured) foods. The post-test correct answer percentages increased for all five knowledge questions.

Conclusion: This study suggests that nutrition knowledge and attitudes can be improved by a one-week health camp. Preventive actions to continue nutritional discussions that will promote healthy nutrition as an expected behavior include providing opportunities for comprehensive nutrition discussions/plans during annual physical exam visit to the clinic. Nurses and all health professionals should have relevant educational materials available for girls that will provide lists of locally available fruits and vegetables, and how to prepare appealing locally available healthy foods at low cost.