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Early Food for Future Health

Christine Helle disputerer for ph.d.-graden med avhandlingen "Early Food for Future Health. A randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of an eHealth intervention aiming to promote healthy food habits from early childhood" fredag 20. september 2019.

The current study contributes with important knowledge on how web-based interventions, as a cost-effective method suitable for public health intervention, can be used to promote healthy diet and beneficial eating habits already from the very start of complementary feeding.

Christine Helle

PhD Candidate and administrative leader

Christine Helle at the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences has submitted her thesis entitled «Early Food for Future Health. A randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of an eHealth intervention aiming to promote healthy food habits from early childhood", and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Friday 20 September 2019.

She has followed the PhD programme in Health and Sport Sciences. The Study has received funding from the private foundation Eckbos legat.

"During the weaning period, when the infant is gradually introduced to solid food and family diet, the foundation is laid for eating habits and taste preferences that may last for a lifetime and be of great importance for later health", Christine Helle writes in her thesis for the PhD-degree.

More than 700 mothers participated in the research, divided in two groups: "The intervention group", who had access to the barnE-mat-website, where they got e.g. advice and recipies. The other half - "the control group" - did not get access to the website. The infants were 6-12 months in the research period.

A short research portrait from 2016 of Christine Helle in video: (In Norwegian only) and an article in Forskning.no from 2019 on the PhD-research (In Norwegian).

Summary of the thesis by Christine Helle:

Early Food for Future Health

During the weaning period, when the infant is gradually introduced to solid food and family diet, the foundation is laid for eating habits and taste preferences that may last for a lifetime and be of great importance for later health.

Diet plays a major role

Diet plays a major role in the development of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. These conditions pose a major challenge to public health, and effective preventive strategies are in demand.

The thesis Early Food for Future Health is based on a randomized controlled trial carried out in Norway. 

E-lerarning programme barnE-mat

We have developed, implemented and evaluated the effects of an e-health intervention, barnE-mat, aiming to promote beneficial feeding practices in parents and a healthy diet for the children.

Each month from child age 6 to 12 months, parents in the intervention group received an email with a link to the month's website where they could watch a short, age-appropriate video on infant nutrition and eating development.

On the study´s website they could find recipes and short films demonstrating how to prepare homemade, healthy baby food.

At the end of the intervention, the group that had access to the e-learning program was compared to a control group without admittance to the site.

More fruit and vegetables

In the group with access to the digital intervention, 90% of the mothers reported experiencing the e-learning program as well adapted to the child's age, easy to understand and dealing with important topics.

At child age 12 months, we found that the children in the intervention group were more often served fruits/vegetables and they had also tasted a greater variety of vegetables.

Furthermore, we found that a larger proportion of the children in the intervention group ate breakfast and dinner with the family most of the week's days, and they watched less TV or tablets while eating.

We found no significant difference between the groups one year after the end of the intervention. However, the between-groups differences were in the same directions as at child age 12 months when it came to fruit/vegetable intake and mealtime routines.

A large drop-out of participants made the interpretation of our results more uncertain at child age 24 months.

Digital age-appropriate guiding

The thesis Early Food for Future Health supports the notion that web-based interventions may be an applicable way to provide parents of infants with age-appropriate information and guidance on infant nutrition and eating development, which in turn may lead to healthier diets and eating habits for their offsprings.

To the best of our knowledge, this has not previously been shown for this age group.

The current study contributes with important knowledge on how web-based interventions, as a cost-effective method suitable for public health intervention, can be used to promote healthy diet and beneficial eating habits already from the very start of complementary feeding.

 

Disputation facts:

The Candidate: Christine Helle (1965, Drammen) is a trained physician (cand.med. 1994, University of Oslo) with specialty in child and adolescent psychiatry (2007). She has been working as a senior consultant psychiatry at ABUP (Department for Child and Adolescent Mental Health) at  Sørlandet Hospital in Arendal, and continued working part time during her PhD research years (2015 - 2019) at the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, Department of Public Health and Nutrition at the University of Agder (UiA). She is now employed as administrative leader of the Priority Research Centre "Lifecourse Nutrition" at UiA.

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place at Gabriel Scotts auditorium – B1 001, Campus Kristiansand Friday 20 September 2019.

Dean at the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, Professor Anders Johan Wickstrøm Andersen, will chair the disputation.

Trial lecture at 10:15 a.m.

Public defense at 12:30 p.m.

Given topic for trial lecture: "Theoretical and empirical rationale for parent interventions to promote good diet habits for children: Which factors provides development of parents meal practices and which mechanisms can explain the effect on childrens eating habits?" («Teoretisk og empirisk rasjonale for foreldreintervensjoner for å fremme gode spisevaner hos barn: Hvilke faktorer påvirker utvikling av foreldres måltidspraksis og hvilke mekanismer kan forklar effekten på barns spisevaner?»)

Thesis Title: Early Food for Future Health A randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of an eHealth intervention aiming to promote healthy food habits from early childhood”

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder. The thesis will also be available at the University Library, and some copies will also be available for loan at the auditorium where the disputation takes place.

Opponents:

First opponent: Professor Bryndis Eva Birgisdottir, University of Iceland

Second opponent: Professor Silje Steinsbekk, NTNU, Norway

Associate Professor Tormod Bjørkkjær, University of Agder

Supervisors were Professor Nina Cecilie Øverby, University of Agder (main supervisor) and Associate Professor Elisabet Rudjord Hillesund, University of Agder (co-supervisor).