Community-wide approach may slow childhood obesity

kid with candy

If a whole community gets into, childhood obesity can be curbed. In a new report from Tufts University, the Eat Smart Play Hard ™ intervention program effectively controlled the weight gain and activity level of elementary aged school children. The kids gained less weight and were less likely to be obese or overweight than schoolchildren in two similar control communities.

Initiatives for the school, families and local business

Designed and implemented by researchers at Tufts, the Shape Up Somerville program targeted the city’s public school students in grades 1-3 and involved adults who shaped their daily lives. Initiatives changes school lunch menus, introduced nutritional education, increased energy expenditure in physical activity programs and worked with area restaurants to offer healthier menu options.

BMIs decreased by .06%

“These results are more meaningful than the modest reduction in weight gain suggests,” said Christina Economos, Vice Chair and Director of ChildObesity180, an organization that is committed to cross-sector partnerships that reverse childhood obesity. “The early years of elementary school are when we expect children to gain weight as they grow. What’s driving the child obesity rate is pervasive unhealthy weight gain in children at a young age, particularly in low-income and often culturally diverse communities where access and availability of healthy food and physical activity options are limited.”

Letting the community control the process

“We were very encouraged to see the data show progress in the second school year when we started to step back and the community took the reins,” Economos stated. “The fact that Shape Up Somerville remains a vibrant city program that has expanded significantly over the last eight years attests to its sustainability.”

It takes a village

“Reversing the child obesity rate requires widespread policy and environmental changes and involvement of just about everyone with a stake in the community; including children and families, schools, health professionals, business leaders, health insurers and policy makers,” continued Economos. “Shape Up Somerville and its enduring presence are a reflection of their buy-in.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Tufts University


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