Educational intervention regarding diet and physical activity for pregnant women: changes in knowledge and practices among health professionals

Abstract

BACKGROUND The knowledge and practices of health professionals have a recognized role in behaviors related to the health of their patients. During pregnancy, this influence can be even stronger because there is frequent contact between women and doctors/nurses at periodic antenatal visits. When trained, supported and motivated, these professionals can act as health promoters. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a focused educational intervention on improving the knowledge and practices of health professionals concerning diet and physical activity during pregnancy. METHODS A controlled, non-randomized study was performed to assess the effects of an educational intervention on the knowledge and practices of nurses and doctors who provide primary care to pregnant women. The intervention group, doctors and nurses (n = 22) from the family health units in a medium-sized city of São Paulo State, Brazil, received 16 h of training comprising an introductory course and three workshops, whereas the control group, doctors and nurses (n = 20) from traditional basic health units in Botucatu, did not. The professionals' knowledge was assessed at two time points, 1 month prior to and 1 year after the beginning of the intervention, using an ad hoc self-report questionnaire. The increases in the knowledge scores for walking and healthy eating of the intervention and control groups were calculated and compared using Student's t-test. To analyze the professionals' practice, women in the second trimester of pregnancy were asked whether they received guidance on healthy eating and leisure-time walking; 140 of these women were cared for by professionals in the intervention group, and 141 were cared for by professionals in the control group. The percentage of pregnant women in each group that received guidance was compared using the chi-square test and the Prevalence Ratio (PR), and the corresponding 95 % confidence intervals (CI) were calculated. RESULTS The intervention improved the professionals' knowledge regarding leisure-time walking (92 % increase in the score, p < 0.001). The women who were cared for by the intervention group were more likely to receive guidance regarding leisure-time walking (PR = 2.65; 95 % CI = 1.82-3.83) and healthy eating (PR = 1.76; 95 % CI = 1.34-2.31) when compared to the control group. CONCLUSION It is possible to improve the knowledge and practices of health professionals through the proposed intervention aimed at primary health care teams providing antenatal care.

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