Schools are not the answer to childhood obesity epidemic, study shows

The Guardian reports that a major obesity programme introduced into more than 50 primary schools in the West Midlands has failed to have any significant effect on children’s weight. Children were given a year of extra physical activity sessions, a healthy eating programme and cookery workshops with their parents. Families were invited to activity events, including sessions run by Aston Villa football club.

The government’s childhood obesity plan, launched from Downing Street in January last year, placed great emphasis on increasing sport and other activity in schools. A number of school-based obesity programmes have been introduced around the country, focusing on increasing physical activity and improving children’s diet in school.

But, says the team from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, the negative results from their large study published in the British Medical Journal are in line with what has been found elsewhere; schools may have a role to play but can only be part of the answer to the obesity problem

The government is tackling sugar levels in soft drinks and foods. “There are some good things in the government’s plan but we would argue that there need to be further measures and there are things like advertising restrictions that would be very good to see,” Miranda Pallan, one of the team said.

The institute created and introduced an ambitious programme called West Midlands ActiVe lifestyle and healthy Eating in School children, dubbed Waves. The programme included extra daily physical activity in schools, a physical activity and healthy eating programme in conjunction with local sporting heroes, regular information to parents about local physical activity opportunities, and workshops on healthy cooking for families at schools.

About 1,400 children aged six and seven took part in the trial. At the start of the trial, height and weight was recorded for each of them, along with other measurements relating to body fat, diet and physical activity levels.

The researchers found no significant difference in weight status and no meaningful effect on body fat measurements, diet or physical activity levels at 15 and 30 months in children taking part in the programme, compared with those not taking part.

Read the full article  Schools are not the answer to childhood obesity epidemic, study shows

All the good work is being undone at home. Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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