The Heart Smart cardiovascular school health promotion: Behavior correlates of risk factor change
Background: A growing awareness of health promotion and positive lifestyle change, coupled with the knowledge that cardiovascular risk has its origins in childhood, has led to the development of health promotion programs in the elementary school. While most school-based programs target specific behaviors or enlist singular intervention modalities, the Heart Smart cardiovascular school health promotion targeted the total school environment with a multidisciplinary approach to prompt the school's varied institutions to implement changes in curriculum, school lunch, and physical education. Methods: Components of the Heart Smart environmental intervention included: (a) a school lunch program providing cardiovascular healthful food choices, reduced in fat by 30% and in sodium and sugar by 50%; (b) a physical education program promoting personal fitness and aerobic conditioning; and (c) cardiovascular risk factor screening, measuring fasting lipids and lipoproteins, anthropometrics, and blood pressure. Changes in cardiovascular risk factor status, school lunch selections, and exercise performance were compared. Results: Screening participants showed greater improvement in health knowledge than nonparticipants. School lunch choices were successfully altered, and children whose lunch choices were cardiovascular healthful evidenced the greatest cholesterol reduction. Improvements in run/walk performance were related in predicted directions to the overall cardiovascular risk profile. Increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were observed at intervention schools. Conclusion: Observations indicate a relationship between behavior change and physiologic changes achieved in a total school health promotion to reduce cardiovascular risk.