The SI! Programme scientifically confirms the importance of instilling healthy lifestyle behaviours in pre-school years

The SI! Programme scientifically confirms the importance of instilling healthy lifestyle behaviours in pre-school years
  • The intervention group demonstrates positive differences in cardiovascular health markers
  • The programme’s continuation over the long-term may have a meaningful effect on the promotion of cardiovascular health

Barcelona, 6th October 2015 – the latest edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has just published the first data from the Total Health Programme (SI!). The study, led by the SHE Foundation, whose president is Dr. Valentín Fuster, collaborated with the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Spain) and Mount Sinai Hospital

The SI! Programme (Total Health) is a school intervention programme designed to promote cardiovascular health from pre-school years up to and including secondary school. It consists of four directly related areas: diet, understanding how the body and heart work, physical exercise and emotional management.

Approximately 15 researchers from the SHE Foundation, CNIC and Mount Sinai Hospital assessed the effectiveness of the SI! Programme for pre-schoolers with a randomised trial involving 24 public schools in Madrid (2,000 children) in the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 academic years. Half the schools were assigned to the intervention group, in which the children carried out 70 hours of activities per academic year based around the programme’s constituent parts. The children from the remaining schools followed their usual curriculum.

The final results demonstrate that the implementation of the SI! Children’s Health Programme has produced significant differences in knowledge, attitudes and habits in the three years that participated: 3, 4 and 5 year olds. The general improvements were in large part due to improvements in the area of physical activity. Although the greatest impact in knowledge is during the first year, the translation of this impact into changes in habits, specifically those related to diet and physical activity, does not take place until after 3 years of intervention.

Similarly, after 3 years of intervention, the SI! Programme has been shown not only to be an effective and practical strategy for instilling healthy habits among pre-schoolers, but also to have an impact on adiposity markers (such as waist circumference or body fat percentage) directly related to cardiovascular health.

During the study, the schools responsible for teaching the material received 30 hours of certified training. The programme material was reviewed by educational psychologists and the teaching staff of each school and also adapted to the school curriculum.

The Total Health Programme, based on an intervention carried out by Dr. Fuster in Colombia that had already obtained very positive results, incorporates new and valuable data on the benefits associated with pre-school intervention. The study uses an innovative design in that it widens the role of doctors to also include the educational community. It also incorporates a protocol and a structured evaluation, something that is usually absent in community public health interventions. Finally, the programme uses the students to coordinate the roles played by families and educational staff, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the intervention.

The SHE Foundation is continuing to develop the SI! Programme at primary and secondary school level, with the objective of scientifically validating the project, enabling its expansion and inclusion of all levels of the compulsory education system, which will without doubt have a significant impact on the promotion of cardiovascular health. The programme has now been extended to 148 schools in Madrid, Catalonia and Galicia and involves approximately 24,000 children.

JACC – The SI! Program for Cardiovascular Health Promotion in Early Childhood

Podcast by Dr. Fuster talking about the research