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The Effects of Nutrition Education Taught by Different Educators on What Children Eat

Nutrition education programs have been taught by different types of educators (for example, nutritionists, teachers, parents, healthcare providers, paraprofessionals). This summary of a NEL review presents what we know from research about whether different types of educators are more effective when teaching nutrition education, resulting in children making better food choices.

Conclusion

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether certain types of educators who deliver nutrition education are more effective in changing children’s dietary intake-related behaviors.

What the Research Says

  • One study was included in this review
    • For most of the study, there were no differences in what children ate after getting nutrition education from a classroom teacher or a nutritionist
    • At one point during the study, children improved what they ate more when taught by a teacher compared to a nutritionist
  • There was only one study in this review and it had many weaknesses, so conclusions cannot be drawn.  More research is needed in this area.

Technical Abstract

Background

Nutrition education programs have been delivered by a variety of different types of educators (e.g., nutritionists, teachers, parents, healthcare providers, paraprofessionals). The objective of this systematic review was to investigate whether different types of educators may be more effective when delivering nutrition education, therefore resulting in greater improvements to children’s dietary intake-related behaviors.                       

Conclusion Statement

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether certain types of educators who deliver nutrition education are more effective in changing children’s dietary intake-related behaviors. (Grade: Not Assignable)

Methods

Literature searches were conducted using PubMed, EBSCOhost, Education Fulltext, and Global Health to identify studies that compared nutrition education delivered by different educators. 

  • Inclusion Criteria: Published between January 1995 and December 2010; conducted in subjects aged 0–18 years; randomized controlled trials, non-randomized controlled trials, or quasi-experimental studies; subjects from countries with high or very high human development (based on the Human Development Index); subjects who were healthy or at elevated chronic disease risk; published in English in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Exclusion Criteria: Systematic reviews, meta-analyses, narrative reviews, or prospective cohort, cross-sectional, or case-control designs; studies with no control group; subjects hospitalized, diagnosed with disease, and/or receiving medical treatment.

The results of each included study were summarized in evidence worksheets (including a study quality rating), an evidence paragraph, and evidence table. A group of subject matter experts were involved in a qualitative synthesis of the body of evidence, development of a conclusion statement, and assessment of the strength of the evidence (grade) using pre-established criteria including evaluation of the quality, quantity, consistency, magnitude of effect, and generalizability of available evidence. 

Findings

  • One randomized controlled trial study was included in this systematic review. The study received a positive quality rating.
  • Two fourth grade classrooms from each of ten schools were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups that received the same nutrition education curriculum, delivered by either the regular classroom teacher or a nutritionist. There was no no-intervention control group in this study.
  • Results from this study were mixed:
    • For much of the study, there were no significant differences in dietary intake between the intervention groups
    • However, between period 2 and period 3, the number of subjects consuming ≥2 portions per day of legumes increased in the Teacher group, but decreased in the Nutritionist group. And, for all food categories, changes in dietary intake were significantly greater in the Teacher group compared to the Nutritionist group (P<0.0001). 
  • This study had several limitations. In addition to the type of educator, the timing, dose, and format of nutrition education differed between the groups. These differences limit the conclusions that can be drawn from the results of this study.

Discussion

The literature search identified one study that tested the effects of a nutrition education intervention delivered by two different types of educators, so it was not possible to draw any conclusions. Therefore, more research is needed to determine whether different types of educators are more effective when delivering nutrition education to children.

Full Review

Want to learn more about the full systematic review? Click the link below for more information.

Which type of educator, who delivers nutrition education, is most effective in changing children’s dietary intake-related behaviors?