School-based obesity prevention programmes show success

27 March 2018

A review of interventions to prevent obesity in children suggests school-based programmes combining diet and physical activity are moderately successful.

The systematic review of more than 56 studies worldwide identified school-based programmes as reporting significant and favourable intervention effects.

The authors say these findings support recommendations that schools should be a focal point for obesity prevention efforts.

“Students spend half of their waking hours and consume at least one-third of their daily calories at school, and educational settings can use existing infrastructure to reach most children without substantial adjustments to the child's schedule or lifestyle,” they say.

The review found that school-based interventions were more successful than pre-school, community or home-based interventions.

Most of the successful interventions used a combined diet and physical activity approach and most also involved some kind of home outreach element.

The authors note that although the school programmes were deemed to be successful, the changes in BMI they resulted in were quite small.

They suggest a broader approach may be needed.

“Although the school setting is a convenient intervention point, approaches that target multiple settings simultaneously might be most beneficial.

“Extending beyond the settings included in this systematic review, existing evidence also supports the need for synchronous and multisectoral efforts (eg, government and business) to effectively tackle childhood obesity worldwide,” they say.

The review also found that many of the successful interventions also included policy or environment changes and staff training which meant the impact of the intervention could have longer lasting effects.

“The long-term sustainability of interventions must be considered in addition to their short-term or medium-term effectiveness; it is important to help children maintain healthy behaviours beyond the end of a study to prevent weight gain.

“Moreover, policy and environmental interventions that decrease obstacles to individual behaviour change can help reform the so-called obesogenic environment that contributes to weight gain,” they say.

The researchers say more work on the success of interventions is needed, particularly in developing countries.

You can read the full research here.