New study arm launched in southern Ostrobothnia on the health habits and stress of preschool children

Professor Leena Koivusilta is investigating the prevention of health differentials at a young age. Photograph: Jonne Renvall

Professor Leena Koivusilta is investigating the prevention of health differentials at a young age. Photograph: Jonne Renvall

An internationally unique study is about to start investigating the nutrition, sedentary behaviour, physical activity and stress regulation of 3–6 year-old children who attend day care in Finland. The lifestyle differences between population groups will also be studied in addition to the effect the children’s homes and day care have on these differences. The research will be conducted in southern Finland and the southern Ostrobothnia region.

The research will be conducted in the towns of Kauhajoki, Kurikka and Seinäjoki. Families in the area are invited to participate in the study in November and December, and the actual research will be conducted in early 2016.

The aim of the study is to help reduce the differences in children’s lifestyles and health. The research is a part of a wider project called DAGIS, which plans to develop new health promotion practices and to reduce health differentials between different population groups.

“The research will offer insight into how we can prevent health differentials early on when health habits are only just forming,” says Professor Leena Koivusilta from the University of Tampere, who is working at the University Consortium of Seinäjoki. She is in charge of the research in southern Ostrobothnia.

The study is currently underway in southern Finland, where about 700 families are participating, and the aim is to recruit an additional 150 families in southern Ostrobothnia.

Physical activity and sedentary behaviour is investigated with motion sensors that are attached to the children’s waists. The children’s nutrition is followed up at home and in day care, and saliva and hair samples are used to measure the amount of stress the children experience. In addition, the day care environment is investigated by observations.

The project is a joint endeavour of the Folkhälsan Research Centre, the University of Helsinki, the University of Tampere’s unit at the University Consortium of Seinäjoki, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Seinäjoki University of Applied Science.
Professor Leena Koivusilta is investigating the prevention of health differentials at a young age.
Photograph: Jonne Renvall