Do School Interventions for Obesity Work?

sharma-obesity-walking_school_bus_cSchools are an obvious target for addressing overweight and obesity in kids – but do these interventions actually work?

This is the topic of a systematic review by Sobol-Goldberg and colleagues from the Bar Ilan University, Israel, published in OBESITY.

Based on 32 studies with over 52,000 participants, programs were mildly effective in reducing BMI at least in younger kids, with virtually no impact on teenagers (why am I not surprised?).

As you may expect, the greatest effects were seen in the interventions that lasted longer than one year and included a wide range of multiple level efforts including providing information on nutrition and physical activity, changing attitudes, monitoring behavior, modifying environment, involving parents, increasing physical activity and improving diet, particularly among younger children.

Thus, as the authors conclude,

“Unlike earlier studies, more recent studies showed convincing evidence that school-based prevention interventions are at least mildly effective in reducing BMI in children, possibly because these newer studies tended to be longer, more comprehensive and included parental support.”

Be these results as they may, there is still considerable scepticism regarding scalability and reproduction of these initiatives and potentially negative impacts they may have in regards to stigmatisation and promoting unhealthy weight obsessions.

And of course, no one has yet demonstrated that school interventions translate into less obesity or better health in young adults – but I guess it is still too early to tell.

Edmonton, Alberta

ResearchBlogging.orgSobol-Goldberg S, Rabinowitz J, & Gross R (2013). School-based obesity prevention programs: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) PMID: 23794226