Impact of school-based vegetable garden and physical activity coordinated health interventions on weight status and weight-related behaviors of ethnically diverse, low-income students: Study design and baseline data of the Texas, Grow! Eat! Go! (TGEG) cluster-randomized controlled trial.
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BACKGROUND: Coordinated, multi-component school-based interventions can improve health behaviors in children, as well as parents, and impact the weight status of students. By leveraging a unique collaboration between Texas AgriLife Extension (a federal, state and county funded educational outreach organization) and the University of Texas School of Public Health, the Texas Grow! Eat! Go! Study (TGEG) modeled the effectiveness of utilizing existing programs and volunteer infrastructure to disseminate an enhanced Coordinated School Health program. The five-year TGEG study was developed to assess the independent and combined impact of gardening, nutrition and physical activity intervention(s) on the prevalence of healthy eating, physical activity and weight status among low-income elementary students. The purpose of this paper is to report on study design, baseline characteristics, intervention approaches, data collection and baseline data. METHODS: The study design for the TGEG study consisted of a factorial group randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which 28 schools were randomly assigned to one of 4 treatment groups: (1) Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) only (Comparison), (2) CATCH plus school garden intervention [Learn, Grow, Eat & Go! (LGEG)], (3) CATCH plus physical activity intervention [Walk Across Texas (WAT)], and (4) CATCH plus LGEG plus WAT (Combined). The outcome variables include student's weight status, vegetable and sugar sweetened beverage consumption, physical activity, and sedentary behavior. Parents were assessed for home environmental variables including availability of certain foods, social support of student health behaviors, parent engagement and behavior modeling. RESULTS: Descriptive data are presented for students (n=1369) and parents (n=1206) at baseline. The sample consisted primarily of Hispanic and African American (53% and 18%, respectively) and low-income (i.e., 78% eligible for Free and Reduced Price School Meals program and 43% food insecure) students. On average, students did not meet national guidelines for vegetable consumption or physical activity. At baseline, no statistical differences for demographic or key outcome variables among the 4 treatment groups were observed. CONCLUSIONS: The TGEG study targets a population of students and parents at high risk of obesity and related chronic conditions, utilizing a novel and collaborative approach to program formulation and delivery, and a rigorous, randomized study design.