Posted on Dec 23, 2018, 5 p.m.
In the growing obesity epidemic and battle of the bulge in-school nutrition policies and programs that promote healthier eating habits among students have helped to limit increases in student BMIs, as published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Close to 600 students from 12 schools in New Haven were followed in a 5 year trial in conjunction with Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. Schools with enhanced nutrition policies and programs had students with healthier BMI trajectories over time, reporting healthier behaviors than those in schools without enhanced nutrition policies and programs; finding students in schools with the enhancements had increases in BMI percentile of less than 1% compared to schools without at 3-4%.
Findings from this study, which is one of the first school based policy intervention studies, support previous administration policies of providing healthier food to children at all schools, and can help to guide future school and community interventions as childhood obesity is a serious health threat.
Behavioral and biological indicators were analyzed to provide compelling results provided by a strong community-university partnership; recognition of a strong health and academic achievement often go hand in hand, the team hopes their findings will inform how we approach federal wellness policy requirements and implementation into schools may help to mitigate childhood obesity.
Promoting healthier eating habits in classrooms and cafeteria has been shown to have a meaningful impact on child health. The enhanced nutritional interventions included ensuring that all the schools provided meals that hit federal nutritional criteria; provided nutritional newsletters for students and their families; had school wide campaigns to limit intake of sugary drinks while encouraging more water intake; and promoted limiting the use of food or beverages as rewards for academic performance or good behavior.
A series of policies promoting physical activity were also tested to see whether they would impact student BMI as well, these were determined to alone have little or no impact on BMI.
Upwards of 1 in 5 American teenagers are obese, and as many as 1 in 2 are estimated to be overweight or obese according to the researchers. Being overweight and/or obese early in life can affect health across entire lifespans, contributing to chronic diseases such as diabetes, depression, and hypertension that all reduce productivity and shortens life expectancy.
Materials provided by Yale University.
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Jeannette R. Ickovics, Kathleen O'Connor Duffany, Fatma M. Shebl, Sue M. Peters, Margaret A. Read, Kathryn R. Gilstad-Hayden, Marlene B. Schwartz. Implementing School-Based Policies to Prevent Obesity: Cluster Randomized Trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2019; 56 (1): e1 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.08.026