Objectives: In light of the alarming increase in childhood obesity and lack of evidence for the effectiveness of school programs, we studied the effects of school programs in regard to preventing excess body weight.
Methods: In 2003, we surveyed 5200 grade 5 students along with their parents and school principals. We measured height and weight, assessed dietary intake, and collected information on physical and sedentary activities. We compared excess body weight, diet, and physical activity across schools with and without nutrition programs using multilevel regression methods while adjusting for gender and socioeconomic characteristics of parents and residential neighborhoods.
Results: Students from schools participating in a coordinated program that incorporated recommendations for school-based healthy eating programs exhibited significantly lower rates of overweight and obesity, had healthier diets, and reported more physical activities than students from schools without nutrition programs.
Conclusions: Our finding that school programs are effective in preventing childhood obesity supports the need for broader implementation of successful programs, which will reduce childhood obesity and, in the longer term, comorbid conditions and health care spending.