South African Journal of Education

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The association between nutrition and physical activity knowledge and weight status of primary school educators

L Dalais, Z Abrahams, NP Steyn, A de Villiers, JM Fourie, J Hill, EV Lambert, CE Draper


The purpose of this study was to investigate primary school educators’ health status, knowledge, perceptions and behaviour regarding nutrition and physical activity.Thus, nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes,  behaviour and risk factors for the development of non-communicable diseases of 155 educators were assessed in a  cross-sectional survey. Height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure and random glucose levels were  measured. Twenty percent of the sample had normal weight (body mass index (BMI, kg/m²) < 25), 27.7% were  overweight (BMI$ 25 to < 30) and 52.3% were obese (BMI < 30). Most of the participants were younger than 45  years (54.2%), females 78.1%, resided in urban areas (50.3%), with high blood pressure ($ 140/90 mmHg:  50.3%), and were inactive (48.7%) with a high waist circumference (> 82 cm: 57.4%). Educators’ nutrition and  physical activity knowledge was poor. Sixty-nine percent of educators incorrectly believed that eating starchy foods  causes weight gain and only 15% knew that one should eat five or more fruit and/or vegetables per day. Aspects of poor nutritional knowledge, misconceptions regarding actual body weight status, and challenges in changing health behaviours, emerged as issues which need to be addressed among educators. Educators’ high risk for developing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) may impact on educator absenteeism and subsequently on school  functioning. The aspects of poor nutrition and physical activity knowledge along with educators’ high risk for NCD development may be particularly significant not merely in relation to their personal health but also the learners they teach.

Keywords: body weight, educators, health, knowledge, non-communicable diseases, nutrition, perceptions, physical activity, primary schools, risk factors
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