Are school-based interventions effective in reducing the prevalence of obesity in children?

Updated: Feb 20, 2019
  • Author: Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF; Chief Editor: Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, FAAP  more...
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Answer

In a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index (BMI) in children, Harris et al concluded that current population-based policies that mandate increased physical activity in schools are unlikely to have a significant effect on the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity. [46] Meta-analysis showed that BMI did not improve with physical activity interventions.

In contrast, a Swedish study by Marcus et al determined that school-based intervention can reduce obesity in children aged 6-10 years and may affect home-based eating habits. [47] The study of 3135 boys and girls found a 3.2% decrease in prevalence of obesity and overweight at schools where intervention was attempted. A German study also concluded that school-based intervention was effective, after noting that intervention resulted in 31% reduction in the risk of overweight, [48] and a Dutch study reported beneficial effects of a Dutch Obesity Intervention program. [49]

The results of another study suggest that school wellness policies, mandated by the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization, can significantly reduce the risk of adolescent obesity. Specifically, wellness policies related to diet were significantly associated with lower BMI, while those related to physical activity were significantly associated with lower odds of severe obesity only. [50]


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