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Association of children’s eating behaviors with parental education, and teachers’ health awareness, attitudes and behaviors: a national school-based survey in China

Liu He, Yi Zhai, Michael Engelgau, Weirong Li, Hanzhu Qian, Xiang Si, Xin Gao, Melanie Sereny, Jing Liang, Xiaolei Zhu, Xiaoming Shi
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckt177 First published online: 28 November 2013

Abstract

Background: In China, childhood obesity is a growing health issue. Eating behaviors among children can be influenced by both the family and school environment. We examine the association between these environments and eating habits among children. Methods: A total of 11 270 fourth to sixth grade school children, 11 270 of their fathers or mothers, and 1348 teachers from 48 schools were sampled using a multistage cluster random sampling method. Questionnaires collected information on eating behaviors among children, non-communicable chronic disease (NCD)-related health knowledge and behaviors among teachers, and education levels among parents. Mixed effect logistic regression models were used to describe the key associations between eating behaviors among children and teacher and parental characteristics. Results: Health awareness, positive health attitudes, never-smoking and regular-exercise among teachers was positively associated with healthy eating behaviors among their students (having breakfast, vegetables and dairy products every day; P < 0.05), and negatively associated with the unhealthy behaviors (daily intake of fried foods and desserts and sugary beverages; P < 0.05). More than one parent having a high school level or above was positively related to healthy eating behaviors among their children (P < 0.05), but its associations with high-calorie eating habits were negative in urban and positive in rural areas (P < 0.05). Conclusions: School-based interventions which target health-related awareness, attitude and behaviors among school teachers may help improve school-aged children’s eating behaviors. Parental education levels may help guide efforts to target children at higher risk of unhealthy eating habits.

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