An Integrated Theatre Production for School Nutrition Promotion Program

Children (Basel). 2018 Mar 2;5(3):35. doi: 10.3390/children5030035.


In the context of stubbornly high childhood obesity rates, health promotion activities in schools provide a potential avenue to improve children's nutritional behaviours. Theatre production has a rich history as a health behaviour promotion strategy but lacks sound, outcome-based evaluation. This study evaluated the effect of an integrated, two-part, place-based theatre performance program with 212 students in five schools in a regional urban and semi-rural area. The program included a theatre performance and a healthy eating competition. A brief survey assessed student healthy eating knowledge and attitudes at three time points. Nutrition behaviour was measured by scoring the contents of children's lunch boxes before, during and up to six weeks after the intervention. Statistical analysis tested change over time on five variables (Knowledge, Attitude, Sometimes foods, Everyday foods, Overall lunch box score). Results showed that both components of the integrated program improved nutrition knowledge and that the theatre performance improved children's healthy eating attitudes. All three lunch box scores peaked after the integrated program and remained significantly higher than baseline at 4-6 weeks follow-up. Interaction effects were identified for school catchment area on four of the five dependent variables. Evaluation of this integrated theatre production program indicates the potential benefit of taking a "super-setting" approach. It demonstrates an effect from students taking home information they had learned and incorporating it into lunch box preparation. It also showed consistent effects for school geographical catchment. This study suggests that, with careful, theory-based design, theatre productions in schools can improve student nutritional activities.

Keywords: childhood nutrition; healthy food behaviour; integrated school-based programs; super-settings; theatre production.