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Background: The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing across the country. Health education at a young age is critical for children to establish healthy habits. The Fit for Life program is put together by Creighton medical students to inspire elementary students to lead a healthy lifestyle. The curriculum integrates physical exercise, real organ demonstrations, emotional wellness exercises, and nutritious meal building to model and encourage healthy habits.

Methods: Over four weeks, medical students taught the 4th and 5th graders of two Omaha schools over live video while they followed along with hands-on activities. Before and after the program, students’ height and weight were measured to calculate BMI, and the students completed pre- and post-program quizzes. Paired t-tests were performed to analyze differences in student BMIs and quiz scores. Pre-program quiz scores of students who completed two consecutive years were compared using paired t-tests.

Results: Student BMIs before and after the program showed no significant changes (p = 0.479, n = 45) however, quiz scores significantly improved after the program (p < 0.001, n = 44). Self-reported survey responses after the program demonstrate increased motivation for a healthy lifestyle as well as improved understanding of the importance of sleep, exercise, reduced screen time, and healthy eating. Those who completed the program for two consecutive years had significantly higher pre-program quiz scores the second year (p < 0.05, n = 18).

Conclusion: Our study found a significant increase in pre- and post-program assessment scores which suggest improvement in student perspective and knowledge of healthy habits. Similarly, students who completed the program for two consecutive years demonstrated an increase in pre-program quiz scores suggesting retention of health knowledge. While there was no significant difference in pre- and post-program BMIs, results may be limited by the duration of the study, given that changes in weight are often insubstantial in the short-term.

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Fit for Life: Educating About a Healthy Lifestyle in Omaha Elementary Schools

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