Small changes in schools lead to big results when it comes to preventing childhood obesity, according to a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics. The school-based intervention, which reduced the incidence of overweight by 50 percent, offers a potential means of preventing childhood weight gain and obesity on a large scale.
The increasing prevalence and serious consequences of childhood obesity have pushed us to find solutions that go beyond the clinic and reach greater numbers of children, said lead author Gary Foster, Ph.D., director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University. We focused on school because children spend most of their lives there and eat at least one if not two meals there.
The two-year study was conducted in 10 K-8 Philadelphia schools. Half the schools implemented a multi-faceted nutrition policy, including social marketing and family outreach, which was developed by The Food Trust, a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.
We incorporated healthy eating into every part of the school day in order to have a greater impact on the students, said Sandy Sherman, Ed.D., director of nutrition education at The Food Trust. The intervention fundamentally changed the school environment.
The other five schools served as a comparison. The study focused on 1,349 students in grades 4 through 6, and followed them for a two-year period, measuring weight, height and physical activity before and after.
The intervention, also called the School Nutrition Policy Initiative, included the following components: school self-assessment, nutrition education, nutrition policy, social marketing and parent outreach.
Every member of the school community worked together to create a healthier environment, said Sherman.
Soda was replaced with water, 100 percent
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