An evidence-based nutrition program aiming to improve primary school children’s eating habits has successfully changed the behaviours of thousands of parents by working with SkoolShare.
The free digital resource for schools and parents delivers critical and timely information regarding student health, safety and wellbeing.
The SWAP IT program, led by Doctor Rachel Sutherland from the University of Newcastle, set out to assess whether a behavioural change intervention embedded into an existing school communication app could effectively support parents to improve children’s eating habits by helping them to swap out unhealthy lunchbox foods and reduce the intake of discretionary kilojoules consumed over the school week.
The collaboration was a success with 6525 children across 44 schools undergoing an average decrease of 600 kilojoules from discretionary lunchbox foods per week. 82 per cent of parents and carers said it would be helpful to continue to receive SWAP IT messages via the SkoolBag App. “Obesity is a serious issue in Australian schoolchildren. Between 22 per cent and 29 per cent of school kids in Australia are affected by excess weight and obesity. That figure is nearly double the average in OECD countries,” Sutherland said.
“Using an existing app platform to communicate with parents was a game-changer to reach and support parents with nutritional information. It gave us the opportunity to share consistent, timely communications directly with parents, via a cost-effective and scalable platform. I believe there’s incredible scope to see more evidence-based behaviour change programs targeting health, safety and wellbeing disseminated to parents on app platforms like this in the future.”
Wauchope Public School principal Cameron Osborne added that the program worked because the information provided was easy for parents to receive, understand and act on.
“In the past, most of the information we provide to parents to support the packing of healthy lunchboxes has been via pamphlets which were not read or even received by parents, and found months later crumpled up at the bottom of a school bag,” Osborne said.
“If we want to see more positive changes like improved nutrition in kid’s lunchboxes, we need to take the same approach, making sure our programs are easily-accessible for time-poor parents.”