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Success of 'Shape Up Somerville' childhood obesity intervention to be presented

Christina Economos, PhD, principal investigator of Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard, a large-scale community intervention to curb childhood obesity, will present her research at the second annual Friedman School Symposium at Tufts, October 29th to 31st in Boston.

Shape Up Somerville was a 3 year long obesity prevention intervention targeted at first through third graders in the culturally diverse Boston suburb of Somerville, Massachusetts.

Eager to turn the tide on childhood obesity, the town leaders of Somerville, community partners, and university researchers joined forces to spark community change and build an innovative, health-minded environment for the children. The Shape Up approach emphasized manageable and affordable changes in behavior and nutrition throughout the course of the day. Whats more, it worked. The intervention decreased BMI z score in children at high-risk for obesity, compared to the two control communities.

"There are lots of communities around the country attempting to make changes and what this study tells us is they should persevere," Economos said.

"A lot of people making a few small changes added up to produce significant results," says Dr. Economos. "We couldn't go to the kids and say you have to change your lifestyle. We had to change the environment and the community spirit first." Dr. Economos also directs the Tufts Longitudinal Health Study, which is researching the relationships between health knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and physiologic outcomes of college-age students over time. TLHS is entering its tenth year and remains the only study of its kind. Dr. Economos is dedicated to the continuous development of communication strategies and public health policies that deal with the complex relationships between nutrition, health, disease and human performance. Her research efforts focus on the interaction among exercise, diet, body composition, and bone health through longitudinal studies and lifestyle interventions to prevent osteoporosis and obesity, starting early in life.

Dr. Economos holds the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition and is the Associate Director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She received a Bachelor of Science from Boston University, a Master of Science in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Columbia University and a doctorate in Nutrition Science from Tufts University.

The Friedman School Symposium will be held October 29-31, 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The 2.5-day program is available on the Schools web site at


Contact: Claire O'Connor
Claire O'Connor Public Relations, Inc.

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