Background Obesity amongst children is reaching epidemic proportions. Paediatricians are anxious to intervene but there is a dearth of evidence regarding the efficacy of virtually all intervention strategies. A pilot study was done to investigate how to design a prospective study that would determine the long term influence of participation in summer sports programs on interest in sport and fitness and actual activity at a personal, school or community level.
Method Parental consent was obtained for participants (age 8–14 years) enrolled in a one week school based camp teaching advanced skills in 5 sports. Participants were asked to provide details of their current sports activity and interest, plus basic demographic data. A questionnaire was distributed at the end of camp to asses changes in attitude or practice observed, and anticipated future activity. Six months later on a third assessment we will quantify whether anticipated changes in activity actually occur.
Results This project is ongoing. Learning points obtained will enable a comprehensive collaborative prospective trial to be designed for next summer, and a robust grant proposal to be developed with the complete set of pilot data. The school has agreed to participate, Sport BC endorses the validity of the research question, and both will partner on the grant. Parents of children in summer programs require advanced notice for realistic ‘buy in’. Circulating project letters and consent forms as camp began led to a poor return, but parents indicated that they would have responded to letters/forms included by the school in the enrolment package. The range of courses offered will allow comparison of different age groups and genders, and courses varying in content and activity. The Dillman method for ensuring a high return rate on questionnaires can be utilized. All questions were understood and answered. Answers and open ended questions provided valuable areas for future focus, particularly that course content should include specific information on the benefits of regular physical activity and define what constitutes regular activity.
Conclusion This pilot study provided invaluable learning opportunities, novel collaboration, clear parameters for conducting the prospective study and preparing a viable funding proposal.