Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 24, 1999

Children's habits focus of study on disease prevention

Children as young as nine and 10 have eating, exercise and smoking habits that may be important risk factors for chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and a University of Guelph professor wants to know how prevalent those factors are.

Prof. Susan Evers, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, is surveying the dietary patterns, physical activity levels, and smoking habits of students in grades 4 through 10 to develop strategies for school boards to promote healthy living in their students. She is working with an advisory committee of community leaders, school board members from Perth and Huron counties, and representatives from health organizations.

"We need to get an idea of the prevalence of risk factors if we are going to be able to advise school boards on changes that should be made," Evers said. "We need to start by determining what issues are important right now in school-aged children."

Data collection from designated elementary school classes in Perth and Huron Counties is now in its final stages. The surveys will be repeated in the spring in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to determine if broad statements can be made about risk factors in Canadian children. It will be important to see if there are differences between the provinces, Evers said.

High schools in Perth County are also participating in the survey. Although high school students are older and have more established lifestyle patterns than elementary students, there may be some important opportunities to improve their lifestyle behaviors before they enter post-secondary education or the workforce, Evers said.

"Many teachers are enthusiastic and interested in doing what they can to develop curriculums and make environmental changes to promote healthy lifestyles. They're eager to get their hands on resources that will help."

The School Health Project is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute of Canada through the Socio-Behavioural Cancer Research Network.

Contact: Prof. Susan Evers Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3780

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