Are the benefits of the ‘Healthy Start’ food support scheme sustained at three months postpartum? Results from the Sheffield ‘before and after’ study
Early results examining nutritional behaviour of Caucasian, English-speaking, postpartum women living in Sheffield, who were beneficiaries or eligible for the Welfare Food Scheme (WFS) or the Healthy Start (HS) scheme, suggested significant between-groups differences. The aim of this study was to examine whether differences observed at 4 weeks postpartum were sustained over time. Eighty-six WFS and 64 HS participants were recruited at baseline and, thereafter, 53 WFS and 33 HS participants at week 8, and 47 WFS and 39 HS participants at week 12. Dietary intakes were assessed by an interviewer-administered, semi-quantified food frequency questionnaire. At 4 weeks, HS women had higher energy intakes compared to WFS women, (9.7 MJ and 8.1 MJ, respectively). Differences were also sustained at 8 weeks, (8.8 MJ and 7.2 MJ) and 12 weeks (9.4 MJ and 7.6 MJ) for the HS and WFS participants, respectively. Within-groups, energy and most of nutrient intakes did not change appreciably over time. Consumption of fruit and vegetables at baseline, were significantly higher (P = 0.023) for participants under the HS scheme (3.4 portions) compared to WFS participants (2.7 portions). Differences were sustained over time as HS women reported consuming 4.1 and 3.7 portions/day respectively at 8 and 12 weeks, as opposed to 2.8 and 2.7 portions/day reported by WFS women. The study findings provided evidence of the potential effectiveness of the HS scheme in a population subgroup at risk of dietary deficiencies. Early findings could provide a useful snapshot of the diet of such mobile population and should be further exploited.