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School obesity-prevention curriculum can reduce medical costs
Date:8/1/2011

Teaching middle-school children about nutrition and exercise and encouraging them to watch less TV can save the health care system a substantial amount of money, suggests an economic analysis from Children's Hospital Boston and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using data from a randomized, controlled study conducted at 10 Massachusetts middle schools, five of which adopted the obesity prevention curriculum Planet Health, the researchers created a model projecting a net savings of $14,000 for the 254 girls receiving the curriculum, by averting the costs of treating obesity and eating disorders. They project that expanding the program to even just 100 schools could save the health care system $680,000.

The study, published in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was led by S. Bryn Austin, ScD, an epidemiologist in Children's Hospital Boston's Division of Adolescent Medicine, and CDC health economist Li Yan Wang.

Planet Health, developed at the Harvard School of Public Health, is a curriculum for academic, physical education and health education teachers to guide middle-school students in choosing healthy foods, increasing physical activity and limiting TV and other screen time. It provides teacher training, lesson plans, materials and FitCheck, a self-assessment tool for students.

In an earlier study of 10 middle schools, half offering the Planet Health program and half offering regular programs (schools were matched by town, school size and ethnic composition), obesity prevalence declined in the schools with Planet Health but increased in control schools over the two years of follow-up. In addition, overweight girls in Planet Health schools were twice as likely as girls in control schools to return to a healthy weight over the two years.(Gortmaker SL et al, 1999). Unexpectedly, girls in Planet Health schools were also less than half as likely as girls in control schools
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Contact: Children's Hospital Boston
Colleen.Connolly@childrens.harvard.edu
617-919-3110
Children's Hospital Boston
Source:Eurekalert

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