Findings of a new study shows that students enrolled in schools and kura with higher uptake of the KickStart Breakfast programme are significantly less likely than their peers to have hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery.

The KickStart Breakfast programme was established in 2009 as a partnership between Fonterra and Sanitarium. In 2013, Government funding allowed KickStart to be offered five days per week instead of two, and extended to all schools and kura (decile 1-10), having initially been available to decile 1-4 only.

The study, KickStart Breakfasts and Indicators of Child Health in Linked Administrative Data, was administered by Oranga Tamariki and looked at the impact of the KickStart programme on students’ health.  Researchers examined the association between schools’ uptake of the programme and administrative data that could indicate whether there were improvements in oral health and bone health for students.

The findings show that one additional KickStart breakfast per student per week taken up by a school or kura receiving the programme is associated with a 1.2 percentage point reduction in the proportion of students with a dental surgery outpatient visit. Given the average annual rate of such events over the study sample is 8.6 percent, this represents a substantial reduction of about a one-sixth.

It wasn’t possible for the study to draw conclusions about how much the reduction in dental surgery was due to KickStart alone, as it was too difficult to separate out the impact of KickStart from other programmes in schools that aim to improve the health and wellbeing of students.

However, the researchers suggest that the KickStart breakfasts may have improved the quality of students’ diets and decreased consumption of sugary food and drinks. This would suggest the potential for wider benefits including reduced obesity, improvements in learning, and reductions in health disparities.

The findings of the study also show that schools and kura are overwhelmingly positive about the KickStart programme and report positive effects on their students’ health and wellbeing and engagement with school. Around 95 per cent of participating schools and kura are very satisfied with the programme.

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