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Melissa Dowman 2006


The increase in childhood obesity in New Zealand and the recent increase in funding from nine hours to 20 hours of free early childhood education a week suggests the early childhood sector is a key setting for promoting healthy lifestyles. In 2002, the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand launched the Healthy Heart Award programme for early childhood centres. The objective of the Healthy Heart Award programme is to positively influence the nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes and practices of the teachers, as well as centre processes related to nutrition and physical activity.

This research investigated barriers to participation in the Healthy Heart Award programme, perceived benefits to participation in the programme, and identified key features of early childhood centres that achieve the award. The Diffusion of Innovations Theory addresses how new interventions are disseminated and implemented and has been used to guide this process evaluation.

Both qualitative and quantitative measures have been used to investigate the objectives of this research, through focus group sessions, mail out of a questionnaire and merge of the national database of early childhood centres with NZDep01. Centres were more likely to achieve an award if the decision to register for the programme was made by all staff (X²=5.3, df=1, p<0.05). A statistically significant correlation for achieving an award was also found for centres that place high priority on achieving an award in their centre (X²=7.02, df=1, p<0.05). Centres registered for the programme were also more likely to be from higher deciles, the more deprived areas. Recommendations are made to enhance the effectiveness of the Healthy Heart Award programme implementation.

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