Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating in Schools (APPLE Schools)

Organization Sponsor: Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating (APPLE Schools)

URLs: 

Program Description

The APPLE Schools is a comprehensive school health intervention implemented in selected schools from school jurisdictions in Alberta, in particular schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The primary goals of the project are to improve health behaviours among children and to increase the capacity to promote health-related behaviours in schools, with the long term goal of preventing overweight and reducing the risk for chronic disease. 
Full-time School Health Facilitators have been placed in each of the schools to implement healthy eating and active living strategies while addressing the unique needs and barriers to health promotion in the school environment.

The program engages all stakeholders, including parents, staff and community members. The role of the School Health Facilitators includes working with the school community to develop an action plan based on the needs of each community. Strategies implemented in the school are individualized for each school community. Sample activities include:

  • supplementing the health curriculum, (e.g. taste-testing, cooking clubs),
  • facilitating professional development
  • organizing parent information nights,
  • increase daily physical activity (example recess and after-school programs, DPA bins), and
  • implementing monthly campaigns on a variety of topics from “Be a Sleep Star” to “Create a Rainbow Lunch”. Monthly campaigns include newsletters for parents, bulletin board displays in the school and morning announcements to all students and staff. Facilitators engage staff, students, parents and community members to develop action plans. Each school develops unique and targeted strategies based on their individual needs.
Funding Sources: 

Population Health Intervention Research Unit School of Public Health, University of Alberta,HDF Insurance

Strategies For Sustainability: 

The program was operated by the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta until September 1, 2013. Ongoing management and delivery of this flourishing program now occurs independently from the University of Alberta. With its proven success in improving children's health, APPLE Schools now reaches more than 20,000 children in 40 Alberta schools. Dr. Veugelers and Dr. Kate Storey, both professors in the University of Alberta's School of Public Health, continue to lead ongoing research and evaluation of the program.

Impact Of Program: 

Over a two-year time period (2008 to 2010), students at the 10 participating APPLE schools had higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, lower caloric intakes, were more active and were less likely to be obese. These positive changes in health behaviours were also seen when compared to students elsewhere in the province. Nine of 10 schools implemented nutrition policies, and all 10 schools adopted daily physical activity policies.

As of September 2011, APPLE Schools projects have expanded to 40 schools, with another 17 schools implementing a modified version of APPLE using the same research tools for measurement (Healthy Schools-Healthy Future).

Evaluation Tools: 

Positive changes to school culture and 9/10 schools now have nutrition policy.

Parents who participate in PA with their children have children with higher PA levels. Evidence available regarding:

  • 10% increase in Veg and Fruit consumption
  • 12% reduction in overall caloric intake
  • 14% reduction in obesity levels
  • Increased PA levels above provincial average.

 International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity

Key Elements Towards Success: 
  • Group process/program
  • School Health Facilitator worked with school community to tailor health promotion activities to individual schools and developed action plans that included activities such as supplementing the health curriculum and teaching students, and facilitating professional development days for teachers and school staff and developing policy
Challenges To Meet Them: 

To improve healthy eating and active living among elementary school children, to increase the capacity of the school community to address health related behaviours and to foster a healthy school environment. This feeds into the long term goal to prevent overweight and obesity, and to reduce the risk for chronic disease.

Objectives:

  • 60% of students in 5/10 participating elementary schools to eat in accordance with Canada's Food Guide for Health Eating.
  • 60% of students in 5/10 schools to be in accordance with Canada's physical activity guidelines for children and youth.
Length and Stage of Project: 

APPLE Schools started in 2008

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