Objective: A school-based nutrition information programme was initiated in 1992 in two towns in northern France (Fleurbaix and Laventie, FL) and was followed by a number of community-based interventions. We took the opportunity to measure the outcomes in terms of childhood obesity and overweight over the next 12 years.
Design: Repeated, cross-sectional, school-based survey. For the school years beginning in 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004, the height and weight of all 5- to 12-year-old children attending school were measured in FL. In 2004, the same assessments were made in two comparison towns with similar socio-economic characteristics but no intervention.
Setting: Fleurbaix and Laventie (intervention towns), Bois-Grenier and Violaines (comparison towns), northern France.
Subjects: In 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively 515, 592 and 633 children were measured in FL (participation rate of 95-98% of all eligible individuals); in the comparison towns, 349 children were measured in the 2004 school year (98% of the towns' school population).
Results: After an initial increase, trends in mean BMI and prevalence of overweight started to reverse. Compared with 2002, the age-adjusted OR for overweight in FL was significantly lower in 2003 and 2004 (but for girls only). In the 2004 school year, the overweight prevalence was significantly lower in FL (8.8%) than in the comparison towns (17.8%, P < 0.0001).
Conclusion: These data suggest that, over a long period of time, interventions targeting a variety of population groups can have synergistic effects on overweight prevalence. This gives hope that it is possible to reverse trends towards increasing overweight by actions at the community level.