Addressing child nutrition and development and education outcomes during the COVID‑19 pandemic: a longitudinal cohort and randomized controlled trial

Birken, Catherine S | $999,595

Ontario Hospital for Sick Children 2022 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has disrupted routines and impacted child eating behaviours. Pre-pandemic data showed that poor child nutrition and eating behaviours are associated with worsened development and school outcomes. However, this relationship has not been examined during the pandemic. Child nutrition behaviours developed early in life persist into adulthood and they could be modifiable targets for early nutrition interventions. Research is needed to understand the ongoing impact of children’s nutrition on their development and education outcomes during the pandemic and identify effective interventions to ameliorate the impact. We propose to use the TARGet Kids! longitudinal cohort study, with data already collected pre-pandemic and since April 2020 to understand the impact of children’s eating behaviours, dietary intake, and food environment on their motor, cognitive, language, emotional and behavioural development, school readiness and academic achievement in young children aged 0-12 years in the Greater Toronto Area. We also plan to understand the roles socio-demographic factors play in these relationships. This study will also test a nutrition-focused virtual intervention, which will equip parents with the skills and resources they need to promote healthful child eating behaviours and improve the nutrition, development, and education outcomes in children. With repeated data collected before the pandemic and during the first 1.5 years of the pandemic and detailed socio-demographic data collected from a diverse population, our study will understand and monitor the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on young children’s development and education and identify effective interventions to ameliorate the impacts of the pandemic and support the recovery of Canadian children and families.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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