School interventions found to be effective in childhood obesity prevention

Yale researchers report that school-based programs are generally effective in the battle against a national obesity epidemic.

Feb 27th, 2009

A team of Yale University researchers has found that school-based programs for obesity prevention and reversal are generally effective and are an important component in battling what many regard as a national obesity epidemic. In recent years, health professionals have questioned the utility of school-based intervention for obesity control and the topic has been actively debated because clear evidence of their effectiveness was lacking. The research team considered school-based intervention studies published in peer-reviewed journals between 1966 and 2004. They searched for studies that tried to help children manage their weight or prevent unnecessary weight gain, and that used strategies involving nutrition, physical activity, reduced TV watching or some combination of these strategies.

The study found that:

• Combined nutrition and physical activity interventions led to significant reductions in body weight.

• When looked at individually, the nutrition interventions and TV reduction were also effective.

• Programs based on physical activity alone generally did not lead to a reduction in body weight.

"Everyone should recognize the urgency of the obesity epidemic in children," said Dr. David L. Katz, lead investigator of the study, and director of Yale's Prevention Research Center and an associate professor adjunct at the School of Public Health.. "We are watching children develop what was, not long ago, 'adult onset' diabetes, now called type 2. We are seeing signs of heart disease risk in ever younger people. The need to fix this is extreme, but the means of doing so have proven elusive."

Dr. Katz advises that future studies should examine different combinations of intervention components to determine the optimal way to blend different intervention approaches.

Source: Yale School of Public Health, January 8, 2009

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