Retention had an impact on student outcomes, Smith noted. The overall retention rate was 92 percent, and attending more sessions was associated with a greater increase in nutritional knowledge in both groups, and with an uptick in physical activity in kids mentored by teens.
"The findings reaffirmed what I suspected, that the teens impacted physical activity for the kids rather than their nutrition. That makes sense because most kids don't have a whole lot of control over what they eat. They rely on parents to provide food at home and otherwise rely on what the school provides," Smith said.
While individual teachers and mentors did not affect the kids' outcomes, the school they attended did make a difference: Children's gains in intention and perceived support to eat better were highest in the school that had the most disadvantages based on such economic indicators as parental unemployment and student eligibility for free and reduced lunches.
The nature of the intervention using members of the community to deliver information rather than having "outsiders" identify a problem and try to fix it could make it attractive to "any school that's under-resourced, or any school, really," Smith said. And the results are not a knock on adult teachers.
"Younger kids look at older kids in their peer group as role models. Teens provide younger children perceived psychological safety and a social network," she said. "And this is helpful to adults. Using teen mentors removes some pressure on the staff and teachers of a school to reach students and have an impact on their health."
Smith is continuing the work to further analyze how teen mentors yield th
|Contact: Laureen Smith|
Ohio State University