Mal J Nutr 21(1): 1 - 14, 2015

Whole School Mapping to Investigate the School Environment's Potential to Promote a Healthy Diet and Physical Activity in Malaysia
Hayati Adilin MAW, Holdsworth M2, McCullough F3, Swift JA3 & Norimah AK4

ABSTRACT

Introduction: The school is a vital part in the development of children's dietary practices as children consume a substantial proportion of their daily intake at school. The school environment offers an ideal location for health education and intervention against physical inactivity and poor nutritional intake.
Methods: A mapping tool was developed to map the school environment on four levels: physical, economic, political, and socio-cultural that can potentially affect healthy eating and physical activity. The mapping was piloted and completed by interviewing twelve teachers (responsible for student affairs and the school curriculum), followed by observation at twelve randomly selected schools (six urban, six rural) in Terengganu, Eastern Peninsular Malaysia.
Results: For physical environment, 55.0% of the criteria were met and while all schools taught nutrition and physical activity, this was not backed up with actual facilities for practising physical activity or food preparation. For economic environment, 17.7% of the criteria were met and eleven out of twelve schools had mobile caterers outside their front gates selling energy-dense food/drink. For political environment, 52.1% of the criteria were met and all teachers were aware of the existence of the national catering and nutrition guidelines, but they reported a lack of resources for implementation and monitoring. For socio-cultural environment, 59.2% of the criteria were met and all schools used sweet foods and drinks as rewards at large events.
Conclusion: The findings suggest potential avenues exist for intervention in schools to provide a supportive environment that promotes healthier eating and physical activity to prevent obesity.

Keywords: Healthy eating, nutrition, physical activity, school environment, whole school mapping

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