Social support, social network and salt-reduction behaviours in children: a sub-study of the School-EduSalt trial
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OBJECTIVES: Healthy behaviour changes, such as reducing salt intake, are important to prevent lifestyle-related diseases. Social environment is a major challenge to achieve such behaviours, but the explicit mechanisms remain largely unknown. We investigated whether social networks of children were associated with their behaviours to reduce salt intake. DESIGN: An ancillary study of a school-based cluster randomised controlled trial to reduce salt intake in children and their families (School-EduSalt), in which salt intake of children was significantly reduced by 25%. SETTING: 14 primary schools in urban Changzhi, northern China. PARTICIPANTS: 603 children aged 10-12 years in the intervention arm. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: We developed a score assessing salt-reduction behaviours (SRB score) of children based on self-administered questionnaires. The SRB score was validated by the changes in salt intake measured by 24-hour urine collection in a random sample of 135 children. A 1-unit increase in SRB score was associated with a 0.31 g/day greater reduction in salt intake during the trial (95% CI 0.06 to 0.57, p=0.016). RESULTS: Children from families with more family members not supporting salt reduction had significantly lower SRB scores (p<0.0001). Children from a class with a smaller size and from a class with more friendship connections, as well as children having more friends within the class all showed higher SRB scores (all p<0.05). Children whose school teachers attended the intervention programme more frequently also had higher SRB scores (p=0.043). CONCLUSION: Social networks were associated with the behaviours to reduce salt intake in children. Future salt-reduction programmes may benefit from strategies that actively engage families and teachers, and strategies that enhance interconnectivity among peers. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT01821144; post-results.