A health promotion intervention: countering overweight in school children with ID

Eamonn Slevin, Roy McConkey, Maria Truesdale-Kennedy, Attracta Lafferty, Paul Fleming, Barbara Livingstone

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    Abstract aim: The aim was to identify if a health promotion intervention using action research promotes healthier lifestyles for intellectually disabled (ID) children related to diet and physical activity. Method: School pupils with an ID (N=34; 50% male/female) attending 10 participating schools took part, 27 were overweight/obese. The study followed an action research cyclic approach with pupil’s agreeing an individualised ‘healthy living plan’. Repeated measurements of the children’s body composition (BMI, body fat, waist circumference); adherence to 7 health improvement behaviours and one-to-one interviews at 3 time intervals were undertaken over 12-weeks (beginning, mid-point and end). Ethical agreement was obtained and sound ethical principles followed. Results: No significant difference was identified in body composition measurements in the pupils across study period. However, active engagement in the healthy living plans related to diet and activity levels occurred, with three quarters of the agreed behaviours being adhered at the end of the 12-weeks. Narratives from the children identified difficulties with engagement but also the value from healthier lifestyle changes. Conclusions: A 12-week period was not sufficient to see statistical change in growing children’s body composition measurements. However, this study demonstrates that ID children can meaningfully partake in an action research study. A health promotion intervention involving education within an empowering framework with children reaching joint participatory agreement as co-planners has a place in the repertoire of health improvement for such children and long-term health gains can result from adopting healthy life-styles early in life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)468
    JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2010


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