Student Well-Being

Youth-Obesity Interventions Found to Be Effective, Do No Harm

By Bryan Toporek — December 08, 2011 1 min read
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School-based programs that promote physical fitness and healthy eating were found to have a positive impact in the fight against childhood obesity, according to a review published Tuesday in The Cochrane Library.

Equally as important: The researchers found no evidence that these interventions had a harmful effect on any students.

“Our findings show that obesity prevention is worth investing in,” said lead researcher Elizabeth Waters, who works at the McCaughey Centre at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “Given the range of programs included in this review, it is hard to say exactly which components are the best, but we think the strategies to focus on are those that seek to change environments, rather than just the behavior of individuals.”

The researchers updated a previous Cochrane Review from 2005 in an attempt to discover which interventions were most successful in helping children stay a healthy weight and avoid obesity. They reviewed 55 studies in total, which varied in the interventions examined and the degree of success associated with each programs.

Most of the successful interventions were either tied to improving a child’s eating habits or physical-activity levels, due to their strong link to obesity.

The researchers identified a number of school-based programs that could help prevent childhood obesity, including:

• Increasing the amount of physical activity for students on a weekly basis.

• Improving the nutritional quality of food served in schools. (Congress’ recent moves won’t help in that regard.)

• Training teachers in ways to promote physical activity and healthy eating.

• Reaching out to parents and encouraging home-based physical activity and healthy eating.

“Research that aims to reduce childhood obesity must now concentrate on finding ways of embedding effective interventions in health, education, and care systems, so that we can make population-wide, long-term impacts on the levels of obesity,” said Waters.

Are Doctors Playing Their Role?

Fewer than 25 percent of parents of overweight children ever recall being told by a doctor that their child’s weight was an issue, according to a separate study published Monday in the .

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.