Photographer:Fotograaf: Archive Vellinga
The Catharina Pijls Award 2016
MAASTRICHT. The Catharina Pijls Encouragement Award 2016 goes to former student Michelle Vellinga. Her prize-winning master thesis examines how teachers can encourage kindergarten pupils to eat more vegetables. The prize is awarded annually to a recent UM graduate in the health sciences and is accompanied by a €2,000 cheque.
The study was conducted in Oslo, where Michelle Vellinga joined a group of researchers focused on how toddlers can be stimulated to eat more vegetables. Vellinga concluded that the toddlers eat vegetables more frequently when they experience initial encouragement, whereas those who receive praise after having eaten their veggies, eat them less often. This ‘reactive encouragement’ was also shown to have a negative influence on the range of vegetables consumed. Kids are prone to try more different types of vegetables when teachers set an example and are strict about finishing one’s plate. Further, toddlers can be encouraged to eat more greens by having vegetables readily available and accessible. “The results of this study demonstrate the relevance of the kindergarten-setting in teaching toddlers healthy habits”, Vellinga explains. “Also, it shows that children are receptive to learning healthy habits from a very early age onwards.” Besides observation, the research includes a survey among kindergarten personnel, and parents.
“I didn’t expect the prize at all”, she continues. “My thesis was selected by the Board of Examiners. I only learned that I won when the call came.”
“At the moment I’m working as an editor for Medical Media, a large online platform of websites on health matters. I really like to inform people about health-related issues in a way that’s accessible. I have been thinking of doing a PhD, but turned down the offer when it came. First I want to gain more practical work experience. Maybe I’ll do a Ph.D. later.” Vellinga already knows what she will do with the prize money: “Go back to Norway to visit the team. But I haven’t planned the trip yet. Also, we’re going to work on getting the study published first.”