Christina Gillies | ALES Graduate Seminar

Date(s) - 21/08/2019
9:30 am - 10:30 am
4-420 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA), 11405 87 Ave NW, Edmonton Alberta

Event details: A graduate exam seminar is a presentation of the student’s final research project for their degree.
This is an ALES PhD Final Exam Seminar by Christina Gillies. This seminar is open to the general public to attend.
Thesis Topic: Comprehensive School-based Nutrition Interventions in Indigenous Communities in Canada
Seminar Abstract:

Background: Indigenous communities in Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) face significant social and environmental barriers to healthy eating. Due in large part to these barriers, Indigenous children are disproportionally affected by nutrition-related chronic diseases. Comprehensive school-based nutrition interventions that integrate multiple components of the school environment offer a promising strategy for improving children’s access to healthy foods. However, little is known about comprehensive school-based nutrition interventions for Indigenous children. The purpose of this thesis was to describe the current status of school-based nutrition interventions in Indigenous communities, and to uncover the principles underlying their development, implementation, and evaluation.

Methods: Two studies were conducted related to school-based nutrition interventions in Indigenous communities. Study 1 was a process evaluation of school nutrition policy implementation using a community-based participatory research approach and an explanatory sequential mixed methods design. Students in grades 4–12 (n=94, 74.6%) and parents of students attending the school (n=83, 66.4%) completed cross-sectional surveys to capture their perceptions of the policy. Survey data informed semi-structured interviews with students (n=20) and parents (n=10) to further identify barriers and facilitators to policy implementation. Study 2 was a scoping review that broadly searched the scientific and grey literature to identify school-based interventions for Indigenous children in Canada and to describe their components.

Results: Study 1 found that facilitators of school nutrition policy implementation included parent and student support, student food preferences for healthy foods, and student interest in health education. The barriers to policy implementation identified included a lack of communication between students and their teachers and parents, lack of parent support for guidelines concerning celebrations and fundraisers, inadequate communication between the school and parents, and the broader socioeconomic conditions in the community. Study 2 found that few school-based nutrition interventions for Indigenous children in Canada are comprehensive, as there are limited examples of interventions that integrate multiple aspects of the school food environment. Furthermore, few interventions have been evaluated to understand the factors influencing their implementation or effectiveness.

Conclusions: School-based nutrition interventions in Indigenous communities require community engagement and evaluation components that involve a variety of stakeholders – including parents and students – to ensure interventions are relevant and sustainable. Interventions may benefit from incorporating two or more components (e.g., school food programs, classroom education, nutrition policies, and partnerships with local businesses) to improve student access to healthy foods. Uniquely among schools for Indigenous children, interventions may also benefit from including cultural content (e.g., land-based teaching and cultural foods). Moving forward, it is important that communities and researchers aim to disseminate knowledge about interventions broadly. This knowledge will assist communities in developing evidence-based comprehensive school-based nutrition interventions to improve the school nutrition environments of Indigenous children in Canada.

Christina Gillies (PhD with Dr. Noreen Willows)

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