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BioMed Research International
Volume 2017, Article ID 5283457, 13 pages
Research Article

Developing Intervention Strategies to Optimise Body Composition in Early Childhood in South Africa

1Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
3Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
4Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia
5Early Start Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia
6MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
7Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Division of Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
8INDEPTH Network, Accra, Ghana

Correspondence should be addressed to Catherine E. Draper;

Received 23 September 2016; Accepted 26 December 2016; Published 16 January 2017

Academic Editor: Flavia Prodam

Copyright © 2017 Catherine E. Draper et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Purpose. The purpose of this research was to collect data to inform intervention strategies to optimise body composition in South African preschool children. Methods. Data were collected in urban and rural settings. Weight status, physical activity, and gross motor skill assessments were conducted with 341 3–6-year-old children, and 55 teachers and parents/caregivers participated in focus groups. Results. Overweight and obesity were a concern in low-income urban settings (14%), but levels of physical activity and gross motor skills were adequate across all settings. Focus group findings from urban and rural settings indicated that teachers would welcome input on leading activities to promote physical activity and gross motor skill development. Teachers and parents/caregivers were also positive about young children being physically active. Recommendations for potential intervention strategies include a teacher-training component, parent/child activity mornings, and a home-based component for parents/caregivers. Conclusion. The findings suggest that an intervention focussed on increasing physical activity and improving gross motor skills per se is largely not required but that contextually relevant physical activity and gross motor skills may still be useful for promoting healthy weight and a vehicle for engaging with teachers and parents/caregivers for promoting other child outcomes, such as cognitive development.