Study shows teachers play an essential role in influencing children’s health

19 October 2020

A joint study by researchers from the University of Sydney and Macquarie University shows that teachers are key to children developing healthy eating habits. 

The systematic review of 34 of the most relevant research articles on children’s nutrition and healthy eating, culled from an initial pool of 3,922 articles, demonstrated that teachers can strongly influence children’s healthy eating. 

While the context for the study was the way in which poor eating habits are having a deleterious effect on the weight on adults and children and their intake of fruit and vegetables - the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from 2017–18 show that 67% of adults and 25% of children were overweight or obese while only 5% of adults and 6% of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables - these results also demonstrate how important the role of teachers are in children’s oral health. 

With Australia’s Oral Health Tracker showing that 34.3% of children aged 5-6 years have experienced decay in their primary teeth while among children aged six to fourteen years, 23.5% have experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth, it is important that children learn about the key role healthy eating plays in their oral health, as well as their general health. 

Recognising that teachers have a key role in educating children on good health, both oral and general, the ADA has partnered with SugarByHalf to create two series of lessons through Cool Australia which incorporate oral health and nutrition into the mandatory learning requirements of the Australian and New Zealand curriculum. 

The development of this material is especially important with the study showing while teachers play a major role in influencing their students to eat more fruit and vegetables, they were not as successful in helping them lower their sugar intake, which is the major of tooth decay in this age group. 

You can read more on the study at Science Direct and more on the ADA and SugarbyHalf lessons at “The best lesson: Aussie school students learning about oral health”