Children: Fit for School?

Research Paper Title

The Fit for School Health Outcome Study – A Longitudinal Survey to Assess Health Impacts of an Integrated School Health Programme in the Philippines.

Background

Child health in many low- and middle-income countries lags behind international goals and affects children’s education, well-being, and general development. Large-scale school health programmes can be effective in reducing preventable diseases through cost-effective interventions. This paper outlines the baseline and 1-year results of a longitudinal health study assessing the impact of the Fit for School Programme in the Philippines.

Methods

A longitudinal 4-year cohort study was conducted in the province of Camiguin, Mindanao (experimental group); an external concurrent control group was studied in Gingoog, Mindanao. The study has three experimental groups: group 1—daily handwashing with soap, daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, biannual deworming with 400 mg albendazole (Essential Health Care Program [EHCP]); group 2—EHCP plus twice-a-year access to school-based Oral Urgent Treatment; group 3—EHCP plus weekly toothbrushing with high-fluoride concentration gel. A non-concurrent internal control group was also included. Baseline data on anthropometric indicators to calculate body mass index (BMI), soil-transmitted helminths (STH) infection in stool samples, and dental caries were collected in August 2009 and August 2010. Data were analysed to assess validity of the control group design, baseline, and 1-year results.

Results

In the cohort study, 412 children were examined at baseline and 341 1 year after intervention. The baseline results were in line with national averages for STH infection, BMI, and dental caries in group 1 and the control groups. Children lost to follow-up had similar baseline characteristics in the experimental and control groups. After 1 year, group 1 showed a significantly higher increase in mean BMI and lower prevalence of moderate to heavy STH infection than the external concurrent control group. The increases in caries and dental infections were reduced but not statistically significant. The results for groups 2 and 3 will be reported separately.

Conclusions

Despite the short 1-year observation period, the study found a reduction in the prevalence of moderate to heavy STH infections, a rise in mean BMI, and a (statistically non-significant) reduction in dental caries and infections. The study design proved functional in actual field conditions. Critical aspects affecting the validity of cohort studies are analysed and discussed.

Source: BMC Public Health 2013, 13:256.

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