New research on the efficacy of school-based anti-obesity programs finds that the campaigns may not be effectively mitigating behaviors that lead to the debilitating condition, even despite the prevalence of these types of anti-obesity efforts.
The research, published in the recent issue of the journal BMJ, found that a wider circle of influences, particularly family, community, and food companies, may be more effective than school-based platforms.
The team of researchers out of the UK’s University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research looked at a 12-month-long primary school intervention program that focuses on developing healthy diet habits and increased physical activity.
Data were obtained on 1,400 kids between the ages of 6 and 7, selected at random from more than fifty schools. The researchers collected height, weight, and body mass information as well as details on physical activities.
At the conclusion of the two-year study period, the researchers found there were no significant changes to weight, body fat, dietary habits, or physical activities among the students in the study versus those not in the program, and that the continuation of such programs “are unlikely to halt the childhood obesity epidemic.”
The researchers suggest more aggressive methods may show stronger results, such as “nudge” interventions that include financial incentives or other rewards.
Childhood obesity rates have been on the rise over the last three decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 years are obese in the U.S. — about 12.7 million. Childhood obesity is highest among Hispanic and Black children. Obesity puts children at risk of developing type-2 diabetes and other health conditions that may interfere with development.
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