Background: Inconsistent effects of school-based obesity prevention interventions may be related to how different subgroups receive them. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of an intervention program, including fact sheets to parents and classroom components, on intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and screen time. Further, to explore whether potential effects and parental involvement varied by adolescents' gender, weight status (WS) and parental educational level.
Methods: In total, 1465 11-year-olds participated at the pre-test and the 8 month mid-way assessment of the HEIA study. Parents (n = 349) contributed with process evaluation data. Self-reported intake of SSB was collected from the 11-year-olds assessing frequency and amount, while time used on watching TV/DVD and computer/game-use (weekday and weekend day) were assed by frequency measures. Data on awareness of the intervention and dose received were collected from parents. Covariance analyses (ANCOVA) were conducted testing for effects by gender and for moderation by WS and parental education.
Results: Time spent on TV/DVD (week p = 0.001, weekend p = 0.03) and computer/game-use (week p = 0.004, weekend p <.001), and the intake of SSB during weekend days (p = 0.04), were significantly lower among girls in the intervention group compared to the control group girls after 8 months. Girls' WS did not moderate these findings. However, no significant effects of the intervention were found for boys, but moderation effects were found for WS (week days: TV/DVD, p = 0.03 and computer/games, p = 0.02). There were no moderating effects of parental education for neither boys nor girls with respect to intake of SSB, time used for watching TV/DVD and computer/game-use. Parental awareness of the intervention was significantly higher among the parents of girls, while the parents of boys were more satisfied with the fact sheets.
Conclusions: The preventive initiatives appeared to change behaviour in girls only. This study suggests that exploration of potential beneficial or negative effects of intervention in subgroups is important. In formative evaluation of obesity prevention studies it seems warranted to include issues related to gender, WS and parental involvement in order to enhance the effectiveness of preventive initiatives.