Date of Award


Document Type



Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Tara Coppinger

Second Advisor

Jennifer Flack

Third Advisor

Dr. Aoife McCarthy


Aim: To implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a nutrition and physical activity (PA) intervention (Project Spraoi) on dietary intake (DI), dietary patterns (DP), nutritional knowledge (NK), cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), blood pressure (BP) and markers of health of Irish children in one primary school in Cork. The relationship between DP and NK, CRF, BP and anthropometric data will also be examined.

Design: Cross-sectional and longitudinal study. Food diary, NK questionnaire and 550m walk/run test were used to assess DI, DP, NK and CRF, respectively. BP, body mass index (BMI) and waist to height ratio (WHtR) were also calculated.

Setting: Two primary schools, Cork, Ireland.

Subjects: Six (n = 49, age 5.9 ± 0.6 years) and ten (n = 52, age 9.8 ± 0.5 years) year olds.

Results: Study One: Intakes of fruit, vegetables, fibre, calcium, iron, unhealthy snacks and saturated fat were sub-optimal. Only 24.4% of six year olds and 35.4% of ten year olds were classified as ‘fast’. Nearly half (45.9%) of all participants had high-normal BP. For ten year olds, there was a positive correlation between WHtR and run score (r = 0.350, p = 0.014) and BMI and run score (r = 0.482, p = 0.001). Study Two: There was a significant improvement (p < 0.05) in systolic and diastolic BP, WHtR and NK for ten year olds and a significant improvement for fibre intake in six year old males (p = 0.024) after the Project Spraoi intervention. Percentage energy from protein in ten year old females from the intervention group (p = 0.021) also significantly improved. Study Three: At baseline, three out of four dietary patterns identified for six and ten year olds were unfavourable and there was no significant difference in dietary patterns at baseline and post-intervention. There were also statistically insignificant differences in nutritional knowledge, BMI, WHtR, CRF and BP with respect to dietary patterns at baseline and post-intervention.

Conclusion: Project Spraoi was effective in improving nutritional knowledge, WHtR, BP and some aspects of dietary intake (fibre, protein) in older Irish primary school children in one intervention school in Cork, Ireland. This study also highlights, for the first time, the relationship between DP and nutritional knowledge, CRF, BP and anthropometric data for Irish children.


Chapters published in peer-reviewed journals.

Chapter 2: Merrotsy A, McCarthy AL, Flack J, Coppinger T. 2018. Obesity Prevention Programs in Children: The Most Effective Settings and Components. A LLiterature Review. J Obes Chronic Dis 2(2): 62-75. Available at:

Chapter 3: Merrotsy, A., McCarthy, A.L., Flack, J., Lacey, S., Coppinger, T. (2018) Project Spraoi: Dietary intake, nutritional knowledge, cardiorespiratory fitness and health markers of Irish primary school children. International Journal of Child Health and Nutrition 7, 63-73. Available at:

Chapter 4: Merrotsy, A., McCarthy, A., Flack, J., Lacey, S., & Coppinger, T. (2019). Project Spraoi: A two-year longitudinal study on the effectiveness of a school-based nutrition and physical activity intervention on dietary intake, nutritional knowledge and markers of health of Irish schoolchildren. Public Health Nutrition, 22(13), 2489-2499. doi:10.1017/S1368980019001368

Chapter 5: Submitted for publication

Merrotsy, A., McCarthy, A.L., Lacey, S., Coppinger, T. (2018). Identifying dietary patterns in Irish school children and their association with nutritional knowledge and markers of health before and after intervention. British Journal of Nutrition.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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