APH 2008, 66, 5-25:

Flanders preschool dietary survey: rationale, aims, design, methodology and population characteristics

I. Huybrechts, C. Matthys, I. Pynaert, M. De Maeyer, M. Bellemans, H. De Geeter, S. De Henauw

Keywords: nutrition survey, diet survey, diet record, food-frequency questionnaire, design, method, child, Flanders

Background: Until 2002, detailed information on dietary habits of young children was still lacking in Flanders, Belgium. In an attempt to bridge this gap, the Ghent University conducted its first Flemish Preschool Dietary Survey in 2002-2003. In this paper, the rationale, aims, design, and instruments of this survey are described. In addition, to assess whether the study sample was representative of the entire target population, some subjects’ characteristics known to possibly influence dietary intakes were compared with some characteristics of the target population.

Design: The target population contained all preschool children living in Flanders. Individuals were selected via random cluster sampling at the level of schools, stratified by province and age. Schools were randomly selected from lists made available by the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training. A total of 2426 children were invited to take part in this study. Information on food intake was collected using 3-day estimated diet records in combination with a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire, both completed by the parents/caregiver. Socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics were obtained with an additional questionnaire. Information about nutri-tion related school policies was collected through a school questionnaire, completed during an interview with the school principal. The fieldwork was carried out from October 2002 until Febru-ary 2003. After exclusion of low quality data, a total of 1847 children (participation rate: 76%) was included in this study.

Discussion: The results demonstrated good geographical representativity. Six percent of the tar-get population was excluded as only 94% starts attending preschool classes from the age of 2.5 years old onwards. The results of this study are used as a basis for nutrition promotion cam-paigns in Flanders, taking into account the major gaps in our Flemish preschooler’s dietary habits. Furthermore, authorities use these data in order to evaluate current policies and to de-velop and implement new policies whenever necessary.